The Physics of Luke Cage
I promise to try to keep Luke’s clothing valuations to a minimum.. Fresh off the binge watching of Luke Cage (I actually cleared that entire series out in the premiere weekend) I thought to myself, like many of you, how all of what is shown is possible. Aside from the Marvel mumbo-jumbo science, I wanted to apply real world physics and material sciences to Mr. Cage, and see if it was possible. In my preliminary estimations, it’s actually not too improbable! Then I dove deeper..
This post will have spoilers for the Netflix series “Luke Cage” and potential spoilers from past/current comic book series – if you’ve not seen the Netflix series yet, or are partially through it or are reading the books, stop now. This is your only warning.
Luke Cage is a Marvel non-cinematic universe character. The MCU, or Marvel Cinematic Universe, is considered what’s going on in the theaters with Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, etc. We will be primarily focusing on the Netflix series in this article, however references to his comic book character may be made. Luke is shown to have extreme levels of strength, bulletproof skin, and excelled levels of endurance. In the comics, these are accompanied by his ability to withstand close range explosions of 150 pounds of TNT without serious injury, and is impervious to extreme temperature levels and electrical shocks. In both series, it is shown that he has an accelerated level of healing, roughly 33% faster than normal human regeneration. This allows his fatigue levels (to go without sleep) exceed upwards of two days without noticeable decline.
Obviously humans aren’t bulletproof – and in the series, it’s shown that due to medical experimentation while Luke was in prison, his skin cells bonded together by Marvel-Science, a term I’m coining as an Everyday Science Stuff exclusive. They state in the show that the cells have bonded together chemically to form an impenetrable layer, however the nurse in the show shows her cutting some cells, and then them healing nearly instantly under a microscope. Already the “impenetrable” is penetrable with a simple scalpel. In the same scene moments later, they try to cut into Luke with the same scalpel and it breaks like it was made of cotton candy. What the hell is going on here? If a small, slow slice cuts Luke open, but the same small slow cut doesn’t cut Luke open, how does his body know the difference between a bullet of any calibre, or someone poking him with their finger?
Logic aside, if your skin doesn’t allow anything in or out, you’re dead. You’d overheat because you couldn’t sweat, and skin that doesn’t break would eventually die from not being able to regenerate. You lose skin everyday because cells constantly divide and replicate and move “up” from the base layer up to the top layers of skin you scratch when you have an itch. Luke is shown to have superhuman levels of temperature resistance, but your body would eventually overheat, even with that, so impenetrable skin is a killer here.
Luke Cage is dead.
We covered this one in Wolverine’s breakdown, but let’s give you the coles notes here. As your strength and muscle mass goes up, so does your overall body mass, and since Luke Cage has been known to punch through concrete walls, steel plates, and vehicle bottoms, we know he’s actually stronger than Wolverine. The only thing that I could find that would match Luke’s strength in the real world could be the .50 BMG round. No animal or human could match his strength to weight ratio, and even amping up to something like a charging Rhinoceros, it still didn’t match their ability to penetrate a 4 inch thick steel plate, no matter how fast they were going. The BMG round has a penetration rating of about 16 kilojoules. To compare, you’d need about 26 kilojoules to break through 4 inches of C19 Steel, the same type of steel that’s used on the M1A1 Abrams Tank for the US Military. That same tank also has 22 inches of steel though, so a .50 BMG round would bounce off of it like a regular 9mm bullet bounces off of Luke Cage. There’s no know strength to weight comparable subject to Luke in the real world, so unfortunately, we can’t confirm if Luke could be alive – I’m going with dead. Physics would break if Luke punched something so hard it would impact a hole large enough for him to crawl through. The density of his muscles, no matter how “super human” Luke is, wouldn’t be functional.
Luke Cage is dead.
Faster Human Regeneration:
Again, Luke and Wolverine share a common power, however Luke’s is significantly slower than Wolverine. The caloric intake required to heal faster than normal increases exponentially, so we know that if you near instantly heal like Wolverine, we know that the calories you must intake is super high. Since 33% is high, but isn’t so crazy that it’s “super human”, we can actually work with this one. My mouse is hovering over the green font colour selector already!
33% faster isn’t unheard of in today’s world. With stem cell injections and Human Growth Hormone treatments, you can heal from previous “surgery required” injuries to lifting weights within a few weeks. In the Oct 12th 2016 Joe Rogan Podcast he goes into pretty decent detail speaking with Dan Bilzerian about how his shoulder (if I recall correctly) was deemed by two doctors as “won’t heal without surgery”, and yet after two stem cell treatments, he was lifting weights with UFC fighters. That alone is faster than 33% according to professional medical opinions from two sources. Dan Bilzerian himself also went on record on that same podcast citing broken legs and HGH therapy healing him to the point where a few weeks after treatment, he biked from Las Vegas to Los Angeles (300 miles / ~483 km) with minimal prior training.
You can’t tell me that 33% healing factor is a myth with that evidence.
Luke Cage is alive!
Marvel is really stepping their game up, along with Hollywood and movie production. I find myself pulling apart some “entertainment in the name of science” and vice versa with movies these days, whereas in the 90s and early 00’s it was ridiculous levels of mumbo-jumbo. Anyone in a professional sense can confirm that movies never get their profession correct, but the gap is closing.. albeit slowly.