Superhero movies have always given us the faith in good over evil. They’ve also planted on our minds that aliens only invade rich nations but that’s not my point here. As much as they’re entertaining, superhero movies are just filled with science that’s just not possible (unless this is an alternate universe). Today we look at what would happen if the movies followed the laws of science.
1. Falling from a height
First thing’s first. Even if the hero catches you after your fall, you’re still going to die. Here’s why. The reason why people die after a fall is that the sudden force created by landing on the ground (or anything for that matter) causes some parts of your body to stop while some parts remain in motion. So even if the hero catches you, your body will suddenly stop and death is for sure. To be saved, the hero must gradually slow down your motion, just like a bungee rope does. This rule also applies when the hero catches you horizontally. To the victim, the blow of the catch will feel like being hit by a train.
Second miracle (that happens only in a movie) is that the falling person suddenly manages to grab hold of a ledge. This isn’t going to work either. You see, the amount of energy you add to an object can be expressed as E=displacement X Force (in opposite direction). One’s arm muscles must be able to several times their body weight to be able to grab a tight hold of the bar/ledge. If something like this happens in real life, either the hands will slip from the ledge or the arms will be torn apart
Superman’s ability to fly without something to cause an upwards force is against Newton’s second law. There must be some upward force to balance the downward force of his weight (F-mg=ma). One possible explanation can be that he is able to emit high-velocity streams of air through the pores of his skin. According to Newton’s third law, as he forces the air out of his body, the expelled air must push back.
Ironman, unlike Superman, wasn’t born with powers and relies entirely on technology. Ironman does have engines on his shoes to provide him the necessary thrust for flight. But this doesn’t mean that there are no questions to be asked.
What is he using for fuel? Based on what we see, it looks like rocket fuel. But where are his fuel tanks? And what volume of rocket fuel would he need to maintain the necessary thrust for at least several minutes? Would it be difficult for him to stay aloft in a stable trajectory?
3. How do they get the power to do all that?
In the X-men movies, Storm is able to generate bolts of lightning at will. The energy released in a normal lightning bolt is about 500 million joules, which is equivalent to 120,000 food calories. To produce even a single lightning bolt, Storm would have to eat at least 60 times the recommended daily amount for an adult female. Her stomach would have to be mutated (again!) into a nuclear-fusion reactor for her to be able to produce that much energy with the amount of food (we think) she eats.
Similarly, Bruce has less mass than the Incredible Hulk. So how does he gain all that mass so quickly? He either needs to increase his appetite or have an abnormal metabolism to be able to do that.
X-man Magneto is a super-villain with the ability to create extremely powerful magnetic fields at will. But magnetic fields are produced by electric currents. In order for him to life a vehicle roughly 1,000 in weight, he’d have to create electric current equal to several thousand amps.
Johnny Storm, “The Torch” from the Fantastic Four comics would have to generate around 940 million joules to “flame on” to a temperature of 5,000˚C.
The law of conservation of momentum states that “For a collision occurring between object 1 and object 2 in an isolated system, the total momentum of the two objects before the collision is equal to the total momentum of the two objects after the collision. That is, the momentum lost by object 1 is equal to the momentum gained by object 2”. So when a superhero delivers a crushing blow to the villain, the villain shouldn’t be the only one who goes flying across the room, the hero too should be affected (that too in the opposite direction).
Another momentum conservation law broken by superheroes movies is the change in flying direction IN MIDAIR! Change in direction cannot take place unless the hero pushes off of anything.
4. Body’s chemistry
Let’s look at the mutation of the Incredible Hulk. The amount of gamma radiation that Banner was exposed to should be easily enough to destruct the cells and cause death. But this is common sense, right?
The torch produces flames that can be as hot as 5,000. But the body’s amino acids, the building blocks of the body, will break down at temperatures over 40 ˚C.
The Sandman, the super-villain from Spiderman 3, has his body converted into sand (SiO2) in an ill-fated experiment. Where do I even begin questioning? He has no organs, no muscles, and no blood circulation! He shouldn’t even be able to MOVE let alone disintegrate and reconstruct himself. How does he produce energy? Can he metabolize food? How does he exert forces? Where does the wind force come from for him to be able to fly through the air as a cloud of dust?