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The ability to rapidly shrink down to bug size (and beyond) gives Ant-Man and the Wasp tremendous advantages. But it also comes with some scale-related drawbacks, most notably, more difficult breathing. Trick out their suits with insect-inspired microscale air pumps, compressors, and molecule filters, combined with the fictional “Pym particle” technology, et voila! Problem solved.
Anne Staples, a bioengineer at Virginia Tech, and her graduate student Max Mikel-Stites first outlined the respiratory difficulties Ant-Man and the Wasp would likely face while insect-sized in a paper published this summer in the fledgling journal Superhero Science and Technology. (Can I just say how delighted I am that this journal exists?) The group researches respiration at the microscale, using insects as models. They described their work at a meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mikel-Stites, a fan of the Marvel cinematic universe, was stoked for Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s release. So one day in the lab last spring, the conversation naturally turned to how difficult it would be for the superheroes to breathe when insect-sized. “Applying that perspective to Ant-Man and the Wasp seemed like a straightforward thing to do,” says Mikel-Stites, who admits to being a bit nitpicky when it comes to science in the movies. And he couldn’t stop thinking about the breathing problems that our superheroes would inevitably face.