“Is there a conversion of Green Lantern’s Willpower to Energy like there is for E= mc2?” – Adrian R.
Short Answer: No. Long Answer: Noooooooooooo, but let’s look into it anyway!
A Green Lantern’s power ring has often been called the “most powerful weapon in the universe”. But is it, though? For those of you who don’t know, or have managed to forget the 2011 Ryan Reynolds vehicle, the Green Lanterns are a group of space-cops in the DC Comics universe who fight nefarious space-crime using the power vested in their otherworldly space-rings. They are essentially the byproduct of the lack of a concrete system of universal governance.
These space-rings can be used to create anything their owners can think of, be it swords, shields, laser blasts or even a giant jack in the box where a boxing glove comes out and punches you in the throat. Whatever the situation calls for, really. However, they are controlled and limited by the wearer’s willpower.
Now, willpower, being a more of a state of mind, is a tricky thing that can’t rightly be quantified. So, instead, let’s focus on the energy of the brain as a whole with a few assumptions.
The human brain is a resource hog. And you can trust me, because it’s my brain telling you this. The average human brain requires 20% of the energy we consume all day, despite only being about 2% of our body weight. In an average human with a 2,000 calorie diet that includes a balanced breakfast, this resolves out to a power consumption of 20 Watts. But Green Lanterns don’t tend to be average humans.
This is Hal Jordan.
He’s an All-American test pilot and also the first human Green Lantern, which makes him a great case study, unlike the other Green Lanterns who are weirdos and mohawked bird-men that, biologically, we know nothing about.
Anyway, as a fighter pilot, Hal’s metabolic rate is higher than most, especially during strenuous activites like fighting space-burglars. This would probably put his “brain power” at about 50 Watts (source) more than enough to light a lower-end light bulb. This is great for when he has ideas.
But can it power his Ring? Well, first of all, the 50 Watts we’ve calculated applies to the brain as a whole, whereas we’ve established the ring runs on willpower alone.
The Prefrontal Cortex is the part of the brain just behind the forehead, and is the region primarily responsible for thought, action and emotion. So you could attribute the exercise of willpower to it. Now, the distributed power consumption of individual parts of the brain is not well documented. So, for the sake of estimation, let’s assume all brain tissue of similar density guzzles the same amount of power. The Prefrontal Cortex is approximately 12.5% of the brain (source), so if all Hal’s effort were to be concentrated on willpower, he could siphon an impressive 6.25 Watts for the Ring.
That’s not much power at all. You could kinda charge an iPhone with it, but it’s definitely not enough if Hal wants to be doing Green Lantern things with his Green Lantern friends.
But how much power WOULD he need? Let’s take an average Green Lantern activity: constructing a fist that he can use to punch people who ask difficult science questions about Green Lanterns.
Yeah, but why would he construct a fist that’s the same size as his fist? That’s dumb. You could just cut out the middleman and punch people directly. Let’s make that fist 10 times the size of a normal fist.
Alright, that’s better. A human hand has a mass of about 0.6 kg, so our bigger fist would have a mass of 6 kg. We need to grab enough energy to make this mass, which is where we circle back to our original question, Einstein’s most famous baby: the classic mass-energy equivalence formula.
Now it should be noted that realistically, we have no way to create matter out of energy, except for a few select subatomic particles in high energy supercolliders. That being said, this is a comic book-based thought experiment featuring humans and monster-men in green spanx fighting intergalactic crime… so let’s just roll with it.
Ignoring the complexities of actually constructing a human hand, by Einstein’s equation the energy required to produce all the mass in 10x bigger hand is 5.4 x 1017 Joules. So assuming this fist appears in a second, this would require a 540,000 Terrawatts. That’s over 3 times the amount of power the entire Earth receives from the Sun on a daily basis. Based on our previous estimate of will ‘power’, you would need 8.64 x 1016 Hal Jordans to make this fist. And perhaps at least one Guy Gardner.
Unfortunately, at last count, there are only 7,200 members in the Green Lantern Corps. That’s a smidge less than what we need. Of course, there are Lanterns that could output more power than Mr. Jordan here, but most of them still won’t hit the magnitude that we need.
Except maybe one.
This is Mogo. He is a planet.
Since we have no accurate estimate as to how a goddamn planet works as a living, breathing organism, let’s just assume his brainpower can be encompassed by the energy of a planet’s interior. He’s about the size of Earth, so let’s use Earth’s mantle and core as a reference. Together, Earth’s insides tend to generate around 47 Terrawatts in heat flow.
Wow. That’s not even close to the 540,000 Terrawatts we need.
Even the full energy of Mogo’s mantle and core wouldn’t be able to create a simple fist. And he’s a damn planet!
So I guess there’s no way for a Green Lantern to generate enough energy to do anything.
Except… the original question assumed a false equivalency between willpower and the energy of a Green Lantern ring (sorry, Adrian). This is because we’re missing something crucial to the Green Lantern mythos. But don’t worry. I’m going to account for that.
If you have a ridiculous sci-fi question you’d like me to attempt to answer with real science, please e-mail me at NairForceOne@Gmail.Com, with “[BACK OF THE ENVELOPE]” in your subject line.