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Inventing Iron Man: The Possibility of a Human Machine Hardcover – August 25, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Like a true costumed hero, Zehr masks learning in the guise of pop culture enthusiasm... a perfect source to learn about the history of Iron Man and the strength and limits of the human body and brain.

(www.whatistechnoagain.com)

Zehr's university-based research includes neuroplasticity, akin to neural rewiring, associated with exercise training and rehabilitation. This expertise, combined with Zehr's childlike curiosity and proficiency in martial arts, makes Inventing Iron Man―along with Becoming Batman before it―a fascinating exploration of human potential.

(Christopher Wanjek LiveScience.com)

A unique and much recommended read for anyone with an interest in the reality of super science.

(Midwest Book Review)

Highly commended to all who enjoy a look into the world of superheroes―but science nerds will like it, too.

(Steven King The Pilot)

The character of Iron Man represents a compelling and culturally popular interpretation of what may be possible in the future with enhanced prosthetic devices.

(Choice)

A fine pick for science fiction and science holdings alike.

(Midwest Book Review)

Back in the sixties, when I first dreamed up the concept of Iron Man, I thought, 'What if a man had a suit of armor, like the knights of old―but modern armor that housed all sorts of miniaturized, technical weaponry? Such a man would seem to be the ultimate superhero.' At first, I didn't give much thought to what that suit of armor might mean to the man inside―how it might affect his body and/or his brain and subtly blur the line between human and machine. But now, almost 40 years later, E. Paul Zehr has tackled that very subject. Inventing Iron Man is his fascinating vision of the real-life implications of my original concept.

(Stan Lee, comic icon and creator of Iron Man)

E. Paul Zehr, surely one of the coolest of professors, has done something interesting, enlightening, and maybe just a bit quixotic. He has built a bridge between the fantasy science of superhero comics and the eyes-front innovations of real-life technological innovators. It is a primer on what's possible now and what might soon become possible in our world and what Iron Man's been up to in his.

(Dennis O'Neil, Iron Man writer and editor)

This wonderful book lays out... the only true way to see the Iron Man―as a prosthesis... a book that educates and delights. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

(from the foreword by Warren Ellis)

About the Author

E. Paul Zehr is a professor of neuroscience and kinesiology at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and the author of Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero, also published by Johns Hopkins. For more information about finding your inner superhero, visit www.inventingironman.com.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (August 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421402262
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421402260
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #626,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A couple of years ago, I read and reviewed a book called Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero. Unlike many other superhero-meets-something topics (usually that "something" is philosophy related), this one interested me on two fundamental levels: it talked about Batman from the appreciative standpoint of specific comic book issues, and it showed me with rock hard, scientific proof which aspects of my favorite caped crusader were possible to achieve by way of body and mind and which were not.

Now the author of that book is back with another investigation into the possible and impossible, and this time he's adding another layer to the inquiry: human and machine. E. Paul Zehr, who so kindly provided me a review copy of his latest work (on sale October 1), has chosen Iron Man as his sophomore course of study, and he follows through with as much curiosity and passion as his first. Inventing Iron Man: The Possibility of a Human Machine uses Tony Stark's original and remodeled suits as a launch point to answer countless questions about man and his capability to connect with complicated machines and to investigate how close to current technology those wondrous armors are.

The questions lead the reader down paths of neuroscience and kinesiology (the study of human movement) to possibilities of flight, the myth of multi-tasking, the effects of substance abuse, the damage sustained by prolonged biological interface with a machine, to the long-lasting effects of subjecting the human body to a second exoskeleton that does all the major work for you.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As the title suggests, this book examines whether Iron Man could exist in the real world. As with Michio Kaku’s book “Physics of the Impossible”, answering the question involves defining the various meanings of “impossible.”

One way to parse the question is, “Is Iron Man possible today given the existing state of technology?” In and of itself, this question is of limited interest because the answer is, “no.” There’s certainly a demand, and so if Iron Man could exist given current technology, he probably would. That’s not to say it isn’t interesting to learn about what technologies are holding us back and where the cutting edge of relevant technologies lies—both of which are addressed by the book.

Still, a more interesting inquiry is, “Will Iron Man ever be reality given the physical laws that we know to govern the universe?” While more intriguing, it’s also a harder question to definitively answer. It’s impossible to foresee all the technological developments that might come along to answer the seemingly insurmountable challenges (e.g. Tony Stark’s inevitable Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).) The book deals with the critical question of what challenges would have to be overcome for Iron Man to be reality.

As Zehr suggests, the appeal of Iron Man is that he’s considered to be among superheroes for the common man. Like Batman, the sufficiently bright and diligent nerd may fantasize that, “That could be me.” You or I can’t be Superman or Wolverine, but given enough money, smarts, and training we could be Batman, or—even better—pilot the Iron Man suit. Put in this light, the book may seem like just another frivolous attempt to capitalize on the popularity of superheroes to sell books. However, there’s actually a great deal of food for thought packed in the book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This was really a quite fascinating book that takes a look at the fantasy of the Marvel Comic Books superhero "Ironman" and asks the question, "Is this really possible?" And the answer to that question just may very well surprise you.

The author really puts a lot of thought into this question and gives scientific proof of what is and what is not possible. Just like he did in his previous work, Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero, which I also highly recommend that you read.

I realize that this review is rather brief, but there really isn't a whole lot more that I can add after reading some of the earlier reviews.

Shawn Kovacich
Creator of numerous books and DVDs.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the most prevalent themes of speculative fiction is the examination of the idea of improving a human through the use of technology. There are a myriad of versions, whether it be through bionic implants, cyborgs, or full up androids housing human minds, but the most successful execution of the idea is likely the story of Iron Man. Iron Man was created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby of Marvel Comics, in 1963. He's appeared in more than a 1000 comic books, several animated series, and two feature films.

To have such success and longevity, a character has to maintain their humanity so that the audience can identify with them. Iron Man is able to do this better than other characters for two reasons - first, because the human, Tony Stark, can easily be separated from the machine and second, because Tony Stark is a very human character - a mesh of exaggerated flaws and charm.
When the audience attempts to identify with the character they inevitable ask themselves, could I do that? Could I (assuming I was a genius billionaire) become Iron Man? In the new book Inventing Iron Man: The Possibility of a Human Machine, E.Paul Zehr attempts to answer that question from the perspective of someone that is both a professor of neuroscience and kinesiology and a comic book geek.

This is the second time Dr. Zehr has examined, via a book, such a question. A few years ago he wrote a book called Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero. It too, incidentally, is a great book.

Imagine, for a moment, the challenges of creating and being Iron Man. What are the questions you would ask? This is how Zehr attacks the problem. Can a machine emulate the actions of a human? Can a human interface with such a machine?
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