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Can a Magnifying Glass Destroy Ant-Man?

Would Ant-Man's worst enemy actually be this simple magnifying glass. Let's get technical. (intense orchestral music) Ant-Man was one of the founders of the Avengers in the comics, and now as part of the MCU, has been a part of some of the largest skirmishesacross the universe, but as far as I can tell, he has never had to face off against one of these.

Aside from helping GrandmaReed and Sherlock find clues, you probably know that a magnifying glass can concentrate the sun'spower to burn stuff. And if you too were once achild filled with regret, you know that it can burn ants, but would the samething happen to Ant-Man? (upbeat electronic music) (blows on flames) (chuckles) Woozy. First of all, how do magnifyingglasses magnify stuff? The magnifying glasses thatyou are most familiar with are just convex lenses, lenseswith this shape, on a stick, and what those lenses dois bend, or refract light, as the light passes through it, and the light interacts with the glass.

For example, these parallelrays of light get bent and then focus into thefocal point of this lens. This bending, thisrefraction, is what allows for magnifying glass magnification. For example, here isa diagram of some rays of light coming form asmall object in front of our magnifying glass andin front of the focal point on the other side of the magnifying glass. You can see here we stillhave parallel lines of light that get bent through the lens and down through ourfocal point on our side, and you have a line oflight coming through here through the center of the lens, and it gets bent one way, but then equally back the other way, so nothing really happens to it.

Now, if I was an observer looking through this magnifyingglass at this object, what would I really see? When we see light, ourbrains have evolved to assume that that light is travelingto us in straight lines even if that's not really what happened if there were some weird physics going on. And so, when we lookthrough a magnifying glass, what we see is not theactual image of the object, but rather, a virtual imagethat our brain creates, assuming that the light coming to us is from straight lines oflight and nothing bent. We assume that the lightthat we are seeing must be coming from a bigger object, and so we see a bigger object.

Now, you are never gonna get this close to something like the sunwith a magnifying glass here or else, you know, (flamewhooshes) you'd be on fire, but distance is why a magnifyingglass can create fire. (flames roar) If you could somehow travelright up to the surface of the sun and then chart all the paths that all the photons of light shooting out of the sun were taking,you would see photons of light shooting out everywhich way in every direction, but when they get to earth, these rays of light appearmore or less parallel. Why? If the earth was right next to the sun, yes, it would be onfire, but also the rays of light hitting the earth from the sun could differ by very large angles. But we're not right next to the sun. We're a full eight light minutes away.

A 150 million kilometers. So even if those lines of light originate across the surface of the sun, because of this immense distance, because we are such a tinytarget relative to the sun, when those lines of light get to us, they start to look more and more parallel. This cosmic happenstanceis why on earth we are able to nicely focus sunlight down to a tiny point withour magnifying glasses. If we were closer to thesun with less parallel light that doesn't nicely go through our focus, then it wouldn't work as well, and (fire roars) we'd be on fire again.

When basically parallel raysof light come down from the sun and pass through our magnifying glass, they are focused down, notto a small, single point, but to a tiny image of the sun, so now we are getting technical. How hot can this image of the sun get? Well, let's go inside and find out. (groans) If you somehow foundyourself in the focal point of a magnifying glass,that tiny image of the sun would now appear as ahuge sun in your sky, as if the sun was now closerto you and to the earth because more sunlight is now hitting you than otherwise would. The intensity therefore,the power per unit area inside of the focal point of a magnifying glass increasesdramatic, dramatically. The hottest it could get in here then is if we had a perfectly built lens that somehow focusedlight, such that no matter what direction I look, not just up, I would see a giant image of the sun. All directions pointed back to the sun. And think about that for a second.

The only other place Ican get that kind of view is if I was in the surface of the sun. The hottest the focusof a magnifying glass can get, therefore, is the temperature of the source of the light. In our case, the sun andits surface, which is hotter than the melting pointof any known material. This property of magnifyingglass focal points is also why, for example, youcan not focus moonlight down to a point hot enough to burn stuff. The moon just isn't hot enough. (buzzing) Even if your magnifyingglass can't create surface of the sun temperatures, itcan still certainly get hot enough to burn stuff in its focus. So now, what about Ant-Man?

Let's set up our question. If Ant-Man literallyshrunk down to the size of an actual ant, couldyou vaporize him completely with your run of the mill magnifying glass like you may have done when you were a kid with actual ants, but nowyou're filled with regret, and you wish that yourmoral reasoning skills were as developed as yourcuriosity at the time. (gasps for breath) Well, grab a ruler, and your magnifying glass. We're headed to earth. What is the power of youraverage magnifying glass? Well, I have an averagemagnifying glass right here. It is small, cheap, you canbuy it just about anywhere. Sunlight, which this magnifyingglass has to concentrate, after it travels from thesun, through our atmosphere, down to the surface of our planet, has a power of about a 1,000watts for every square meter. So to know how strong this is gonna be in terms of burning, weneed to know how much this lens is going toconcentrate those 1,000 watts.

So now, we need to measurethe area of this lens, the area of the tiny imageof the sun that it creates, and also, the focal length. I measure the focal lengthof the magnifying glass and use this equation toget an area for the image of the sun that it makes,and the circle symbol there is just the angular diameterof the sun from earth. I then measure the areaof the magnifying glass to be about 54 square centimeters. When you divide these two areas, you get our concentration factor, which for this specificmagnifying glass, is 1,560. Over 1,500 times theintensity of normal sunlight. So, inside our focus, theintensity of sunlight goes from a kilowatt per unit area to over a megawatt in the same space. If the conditions out here were perfect, we could theoretically get the focus of this magnifying glass upto hot enough to boil lead.

We do not have perfect conditions, but we can still burn stuff. And remember, there isn'tactually any power increase here with the magnifying glass. What we were doing isjust taking more sunlight and focusing it down into a small space. It's kinda like thedifference between stepping on a bed of nails and just a single nail. One is a lot more intenseeven though the force from your foot is the same. We can still, though, burnpaper and other material with this magnifying glass, which means we're reaching temperatures of at least 500 kelvin,or 440 degrees Fahrenheit. The question now is wouldAnt-Man suffer the same fate?

That depends on exactlyhow Scott Lang's suit works and a whole bunch of ant math. For our hypothetical,we are going to assume that Scott Lang shrinks down to the size of your average ant, and then we bring the focusof our magnifying glass down on top of him. What happens next? Well, there are actually heat equations that can give us some idea. We want a complete defeatand vaporization of Lang, so here we can start to rearrangethis heat energy equation to get the time it would take to do so. If it's a few seconds, then it's probably an effective weapon. If it takes longer thanthat, probably not. The total heat energy Q needed to raise Scott Lang's temperatureenough to vaporize him can also be thought of power times time. So we can rearrange thisequation to solve for time. So now all we have todo is assume some masses for Scott Lang when he's ant size, get the intensity that we measured from our magnifying glass, and then figure out how much power is actually hitting Ant-Man'sscaled down surface area. Do all of this math,and you get the time it would take to vaporize Ant-Man using our actual magnifying glass that we just measured and evaluated, and I get 3.3 seconds. In just seconds, Ant-Manwould vaporize and be no more.

And this time value is evenconfirmed by experiment if, you know, you were evera kid and you spent a lot of time, you know, burning ants and they were (mumbles)- Why Kyle? Why did you do this to us? How could you do this to me and my family? - I was just a boy I didn't know (overlapping voices) - Whoa. I almost didn't make it out of that one. I know that we just saidthat you could defeat Ant-Man in just a few secondswith a magnifying glass, but that cannot be our full conclusion because Ant-Man's powers are weird. It flip flops in the movies,but it is often implied that when tiny, Scott Lang keeps his mass. In other words, he wouldn't go down to a few milligrams at ant size. He would keep his manydozens of kilograms instead and be literally millionsof times more massive. If we keep everything else the same, but now assume that somehow, when small, Ant-Man keeps his man mass, the time it would take tovaporize him goes to 4.1. Years.

With any kind of heat loss from the suit, which he would need ifhe was always shrinking and enlarging, thisimmense time values means that basically, this won't happen. There could be some damagefrom a magnifying glass, but certainly, no defeat. Even if Ant-Man had justa few milligrams of mass when tiny, there isstill a fairly simple way around (overlapping voices)death by magnifying glass. Leave me alone!- How could you do this to us?

The focal point of a magnifying glass is very focused, duh, and so Ant-Man, just outside of the focus, would be fine. Even if he couldn't move,all he would have to do is shrink or enlarge himself a little bit and it would be outside of the focal point and seriously minimizethe intensity of it. For example, the focus of this definitely scarytwo square meter lens is at over half the temperatureof the surface of the sun, and yet you can get very close to it with nothing bad happening to you. Inside of the focus, sure, instant fire, but out side of the focus, you're fine. Ant-Man could avoid defeat inthis way with a simple shrink. So, could the humble magnifyingglass defeat Ant-Man. Well, it depends on exactlyhow his powers are working from moment to moment, but there is a plausible interpretation where if he keeps his man mass at small sizes, no, you could not vaporize him like an ant underneath the focus. Of course, you could come upwith some elaborate set up and trap him and put ahuge lens over top of him and put a gigajoules worth of energy into his body in a few seconds, but at this point, thisis extremely complicated, and you're like a super villain now, and there are simpler ways to go about it. The magnifying glass wassupposed to be simple.

At the very least, we didget to shine some light on a pretty fun question. (In a higher pitch)Because science (screams). You did it. (upbeat electronic music) Keep in mind we'reevaluating this scenario in a very straight foreword,brute force kind of way. We're assuming Ant-Manto be like a barrel. Like a 70 kilogram barrel of water. Just water. So, if you think about it, if you held our smallish magnifying glass at that barrel of water,you have an intuitive idea that it would never fullyvaporize the full barrel of water. It would lose heat. It just wouldn't gethot enough, fast enough, but if you had just a tinytiny, a single drop of water, like would be in an ant, for example, you can imagine that it would burn it up a lot faster, so that's what we're getting at. We assumed everything was water, and what would it do to a water person. And, if it had even a larger capacity, being flesh and bone and everything, it would take even longer, so either way, if Ant-Man's powers workin this kinda weird way, I don't think you could magnify him. But, don't count him out cause his effect on the MCU is magnif-- (sighs).

Thank you so much for watching, Alexandra, and thank you to Dan Caseyfor suggesting this episode. If you want more of me, orus, you can suggest ideas and follow all of ournerdy whatever we're doing (chuckles) at thesesocial media handles here, and the first fewepisodes of Because Space are live on the BecauseScience channel with Dr. Moo. You're gonna want to check them out. We got celebrity guests. Oh we got fun topics. We got it all. Please go and share your comments there. You thought I was gonnasay bye, didn't you? I didn't. (electronic music) 


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