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The Science! of the Shield

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Brian clicked the video on his YouTube feed, titled, ‘Captain America’s shield and the science behind it’, it’s thumbnail being a close up picture of the shield. 


The video started with a woman with long brown hair in a ponytail against a blue background, talking. “Captain America, sentinel of liberty, hero of the free world, recent saviour of New York, and... the owner of the most famous shield in history.” 


The screen faded out, replaced with a blue room with two chairs, one of them seating the brown haired woman, and Captain America in the other seat. 


“Today we’re being joined by the man himself” she said. “Welcome to the show Captain America!” 


“It’s my pleasure” he said, shaking her hand “but please call me Steve.”


“Now we’ve been watching some of the videos from the battle of New York,” she said. “And I think we’re all curious about that shield. It’s properties are like no metal we’ve ever seen, reflecting energy blasts from a lightning generating hammer, and bouncing off walls like a ping pong ball! What is this shield made of?”


“It’s kind of complicated” he said. “And most of the information I do know about it, is from what I’ve found out in the field, or from half understood rambling science talk from Howard Stark. Don’t expect a clear or completely accurate explanation!” 


“That’s perfectly understandable Steve,” she said. “Most of what science is in the first place is observing, and making educated guesses. You definitely know more than us, that’s for sure!”


“All right” he said. “The shield is made of what Howard called vibranium, which absorbs vibrations.”


“But if it absorbs vibrations,” the host said curiously, “then it wouldn’t be able to bounce off walls, it would hit one wall and drop to the floor.”


“I know,” Captain America said. “I was confused too, but apparently that is only a property of pure vibranium. See, vibranium is a very rare metal, and very expensive. Howard used up all that he could scrounge when he made the shield, so parts of it are made of an alloy of vibranium and an unknown metal. He had found out before making the shield that when vibranium is alloyed with another metal, it reacts completely oppositely than when it’s pure. 


You see the different sections on the shield? Their the reason that it’s painted in rings. Each section has a different direction of reflection, the circle in the centre is pure vibranium and only absorbs vibrations, for example, if you shot a bullet into the centre the bullet would drop to the floor, flattened. The rings are easiest to see as a child’s drawing of a sun. The reflection angle of the inner red ring is about 22.5 degrees, the white circle is 22.5 degrees off of that, and the outer red circle is 22.5 degrees of from that. The rim of the shield is of course 90 degrees, which means that it easily bounces off walls, and conserves momentum really well.”


“How did you get this shield Steve,” she asked. “It seems like an item like that would be expensive!”


“Howard gave it to me” Captain America said. “When I was on the USO circuit, selling war bonds, I had a steel shield, brought it with me when I rescued the prisoners from Azzano, and well, Howard was a bit of a showboat. When I got back, he designed a whole bunch of shields for me, and I chose this one.”


“That’s quite the story!” The host said, “now I have a totally hypothetical question for you, do you think that you would have been able to use the shield before you got the serum?”


“That’s quite the question,” Captain America said. “First of all, most people seem to think that the shield is heavy, but it’s actually pretty light. Pure vibranium is about a third of the weight of steel, so I definitely would have been able to lift it before the serum. Do you want to hold it to see?”


“Of course,” she said, grabbing the shield. “Wow that is really light! But back to the topic at hand, you may have been able to lift it back then, but could you have used it?”


“Definitely not,” he said. “For one it takes a decent amount of strength to be able to throw it accurately, not super strength, but quite a bit nonetheless. Another reason I wouldn’t have been able to, is because throwing the shield accurately, with multiple bounces, needs a lot of quick thinking, calculating angles, and figuring out possible areas to rebound it off of to get to as many targets as possible, etc. The serum enhanced the speed, and memory retention of my brain, so the calculations I need to make are a lot easier and faster to do. I can also bring up memories of previous throws, to use in similar situations. I was pretty good at geometry before the serum, I wasn’t usually good at most math and science, that was Bucky’s job, but geometry just clicked for me. I had always been good at pool too.”


“So you just extrapolated on those skills?” She asked.


“Yeah” he said “but catching it is a challenge as well, I broke a couple of fingers the first time I caught it, I was sure was lucky to have enhanced healing! I did get used to it eventually, but no one I’ve met has been able to catch it, I did try to teach the Howlies in the beginning, but it never worked. I did make sure that they could all throw it back to me though, just in case I made a mistake on a throw.


That’s one of the big advantages of a unique weapon though, if you lose it, you aren’t giving the enemy a weapon as well.”


“Can you elaborate on that Steve,” the host asked.


“Of course” he replied. “For example, for the most part guns are just point and shoot, and knives are quite common, and pretty simple as well. If you drop one of those, chances are that your enemy can use them as well, and you both lose a weapon, and give the enemy one. But with unique weapons, like Hawkeyes bow for example, not only is the draw weight immense for those who haven’t trained for it, but if you don’t know how to use it, it’s nearly impossible to hit what your aiming at. It’s the same with the shield, while they can use the shield as a shield, they usually can’t use it for anything offensive.”


“That’s fascinating,” she said. “But why don’t we experiment with it a bit, I would love to see it in action in person!”



The next scene opened in a large concrete room, with a few concrete supports, Captain America and the woman standing in the middle.


“Fair warning,” Captain America said. “There is a large possibility that the shield will damage the supports and the walls in this room. If you don’t want any damage, please stop me before I start throwing the shield around.”


“It’s fine” she said. “This room is a worthy sacrifice for seeing this in person.”


“If your sure,” Captain America said.


The rest of the video was a long series of experimental ricocheting. Trying to get as many ricochets as possible, hitting specific targets, and using BB guns to test the reflection angles. It was fascinating, seeing increasingly elaborate chains of rebounds, almost all of them hitting their targets, and not one of them coming close to hitting the host. 


The video ended with the host and Captain America standing in the middle of the now slightly battered room. 


The host said, “this has been Captain America, showing us the shield and the science behind it. Thanks for the assist, and have a great day!”


“I will” Captain America said. 


The host turned to the camera and said, “please like and subscribe, and see you all next time!”


The video ended, the screen going black.

a diagram of the reflection angles