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In the movie, when Ant Man realized he needed to shrink to sub-molecular levels to enter Yellowjacket's suit - how did he then interact with the components to destroy the suit?

Titanium has a density of 4.506 g/cm3 at room temperature while silicon (the inside of the suit appears to have standard electronic circuitry) has a density of 2.3290 g/cm3 so roughly half as dense. If Ant-Man can pass between titanium molecules then he should pass straight through the electronics. In fact, human muscle tissue is only about 1.06 g/cm3 so he should have proceeded to pass through Yellowjacket without interacting with any other molecules.

The same question applies to Mrs. Pym when she shrunk to enter the missile.

marked as duplicate by calccrypto, Izkata, phantom42, The Fallen, Shevliaskovic Aug 6 '15 at 14:42

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    I'm kinda amused that this question, "How did Scott disable the suit", is a duplicate of another question, "How did the Wasp disable a missile", who's answer is "The same way Scott disabled the suit." Seems like it ought to be the other way around... – KutuluMike Aug 6 '15 at 14:59
  • I see two possible explanations. The first one would be that by the term "sub-molecular", they mean the collection of micro-fractures inside a metal; in fact, anything that is not a perfect crystal (therefore, this would do even for a diamond). These micro-fractures can be very big in comparaison to the size of some electronic. The second one would be that the electronic inside the yellow jacket has itself been shrinked. However, this second possibility works only for the Ant-Man and not for the Wasp because we don't expect this technology available to the missile's builders. – SylvainL Aug 6 '15 at 19:22
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tl;dr: Despite what Dr. Pym says (more than once), Scott didn't have to slip "between the molecules" of titanium to get into the suit; however, he had to disable the size regulator, and that meant he would eventually get sub-molecular, because he couldn't stop himself.


The movie makes liberal use of the term "sub-molecular" but it clearly doesn't understand what that term means. The problem with taking the movie's dialogue at face value is that it is directly contradicted by everything we see on screen:

  • He doesn't actually slip "between the molecules" of titanium; he slips through a seam between two distinct titanium plates on the suit.
  • Once inside, he's shown to be larger than electronic components like ICs, which are usually bigger than the insects he's been running around with, let alone single molecules
  • As he keeps shrinking, we see him go past other microscopic items, like bacteria and whatnot, that are clearly larger than molecules.
  • Eventually, he shrinks down to the point where he's seeing DNA molecules -- but those are big molecules, and he's bigger than they are.

It takes until very near the end of that scene until his size could legitimately be described as "sub-molecular".

The most generous interpretation I can come up with is that, even though Hank Pym literally said "slip between the molecules", that he wasn't speaking with scientific accuracy, but was dumbing things down for Scott's benefit; what he meant was "become much smaller than normal, and eventually sub-molecular, to fit into that gap." It's very, very thin, but as far as I can tell, it's the only in-universe way to explain the scientific disaster around the whole concept.

  • I dislike the idea that Pym needed to "dumb things down" for Lang. The man had a master's in electrical engineering, for goodness sake, he should not have needed anything to be knocked down a few intellectual notches. – USFBS Aug 6 '15 at 12:34
  • @usfbs Electrical engineering /= molecular biology – user36770 Aug 6 '15 at 12:50
  • @A.K Never said Lang was an expert in the field of molecular biology, I mentioned it to further the point that the man was (but not written as though he was) intelligent. Using the "terms for the layman" explanation does not sit well when the man that they were explaining this to should have a basic collegiate understanding of chemistry, not to mention a rigorous understanding physics. He doesn't need Pym to shown him his papers on the subject, but explaining it to Lang as if he were a child does not seem right (given the amount of interest Pym took in him). – USFBS Aug 6 '15 at 13:00
  • As I said, its not a very good explanation, but the only other one that fits in-universe is "Hank Pym is a moron." so I went with the lesser of two evils. – KutuluMike Aug 6 '15 at 13:04
  • In truth, the words were chosen to convey the idea to the viewer, and to sound scientific. It was a poor choice of words. They didn't need to become small enough to slip "between the molecules", just small enough to slip between the joints of the parts they're trying to sabotage. – phantom42 Aug 6 '15 at 13:33

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