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article imageThe 'physics' of Batman questioned

By Tim Sandle     Jun 18, 2016 in Science
Leicester - The avenging dark knight has been thrilling comic book readers, and latterly cinema goers, since the 1930s. But just how realistic is the 'science' behind the caped crusader? University of Leicester scientists have been finding out.
The research from the University of Leicester does not make good reading for anyone hoping to emulate the superhero feats of Batman (although whether Batman, with no enhanced super-powers, is a superhero is along-running debate within fandom.)
Having reviewed several comic book characters, the researchers have declared Barman to be the “most ill-equipped” of the characters. This is because the velocities Gotham City’s protector reaches when gliding through the air would most likely to kill him on landing. The grim end to Batman is captured in the research paper abstract:
“Looking at the case for gliding from a fairly tall building of … 150 m, Batman can glide to a distance of about 350 m, which is reasonable; the problem with the glide lies in his velocity as he reaches ground level. The velocity rises rapidly to a maximum of a little over 110 kilometers an hour before steadying to a constant speed of around 80. At these high speeds any impact would likely be fatal if not severely damaging (consider impact with a car travelling at these speeds) … Clearly gliding using a batcape is not a safe way to travel, unless a method to rapidly slow down is used, such as a parachute.”
This information has been published in a research paper in the Journal of Physics Special Topics, titled "Trajectory of a falling Batman."
Not all fans are happy, however. One gamer tweeted that the physics of Batman had been carefully studied, especially for the latest computer games: "Apparently, Rocksteady made one dude spend two years working on NOTHING but Batman's cape physics alone for Arkham Asylum." (from MT (@MasterTainment.))
Over the past seven years scientists at the University of Leicester have been publishing papers about the abilities of superheroes and seeing how much of their crime-fighting abilities are based within the current laws of physics. These inquiries have been published in the Journal of Physics Special Topics and Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics.
Examples of research questions include:
Superman in space
Superman is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics.
Publicity photo
‘How much energy can Superman release during a super flare?’ The answer is: "If ‘Law of Energy Conservation’ is obeyed and it is assumed Superman has the same efficiency as an actual solar cell (12%), then the energy efficiency for this SUPER FLARE attach is 7.07x105 J/s" (full details here.)
Grant Gustin stars as Barry Allen in the hit series  The Flash
Grant Gustin stars as Barry Allen in the hit series 'The Flash'
Waner Bros/CW
‘Modelling the mutation rate of The Flash in context’, which leads to the response: " In 1 year of being ‘The Flash’ he will accumulate 72 years’ worth of mutations – for a 25 year old that is extremely high! (however his increased regenerative capacity could fight against cancer (+))" (full article here.)
With ‘X-Men: Wolverine’, the researchers found: "Increased healing processes which allow for rapid regeneration -> this is achieved most likely by bypassing the ‘Hayflick Limit’ so stem cells can divide indefinitely – this also suggests levels of the protein ‘telomerase’ is high – NET RESULT is damaged cells are constantly turned over"; however: "Healing powers may suppress memories and lead to amnesia." (The full paper can be found here.)
Other characters explored are: Thor; Mystique; Dr Curt Connors (The Lizard); Iron Man; Spiderman; and the Silver Surfer.
With all of this, according to The Guardian, the researchers have concluded that Superman is the “the number one candidate for ‘most powerful superhero.”
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