Engineer builds 'working' Thor's hammer only he can lift

Using powerful electromagnets and a fingerprint scanner, an electrical engineer builds a replica of Thor's hammer Mjolnir that can only be lifted by the worthy.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
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A passerby tries to lift engineer Allen Pan's Mjolnir. Video screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

In Marvel comics, Thor's legendary hammer Mjolnir is famous for being able to be wielded only by the worthy. For the unworthy, i.e., literally everyone except Thor and the odd someone else from time to time (a handy loophole for writers), Mjolnir simply cannot be lifted off the ground.

It is this property that electrical engineer Allen Pan, aka Sufficiently Advanced on YouTube, decided to replicate in his very own take on a "working" Mjolnir.

To make the hammer immoveable, he decided that strong magnets were the best method. Inside the head of his Mjolnir, he packed a microwave oven transformer electromagnet, which uses electricity to produce a magnetic field. This creates a very strong magnetic pull, strong enough that the hammer, when placed on a metal surface (that can't be lifted, such as a locked manhole cover), feels too heavy to lift.

The handle is attached to a capacitive touch sensor, which in turn is attached to an Arduino Pro Mini and a solid state relay, which serves as a switching device. As soon as someone grasps the handle, the electromagnets switch on, attaching the hammer to the metal surface.

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However, the hammer can be turned off via a fingerprint sensor keyed to Pan's thumbprint. When Pan grasps the hammer, the magnets switch on. When he moves his thumb over the sensor, it switches off again, allowing Pan to lift the hammer.

Watch this: Are you worthy to lift this Thor's hammer?, Ep. 222

Pan took his invention to the streets of Venice Beach, California, where he challenged unsuspecting passersby to lift it. It's a magnificent prank... and, just like in the comics and films, there may be more than one who is worthy. Sometimes brain does beat brawn.

Now he just has to find a way to make it call down the lightning and return to his hand when he throws it...