The Dark Knight has faced some damn right terrifying enemies in the past and more often than not, our caped crusader always figures out just how to defeat these criminal masterminds. Well, it turns out that he might not be able to take on this new enemy, which comes in the strange guise of some physics students! These students are trying to tell us that in actual fact the mythical batcape that allows our hero to soar around Gotham City is more likely to make him hit the ground Ker-Splat than anything else! How dare these mortal beings attempt to demystify our superhero!
All joking aside, four physics students have undertaken a study that shows that whilst Batman’s cape would allow him to glide off of tall buildings, he would have a bit of a problem when it came to slowing down and stopping. Meaning that instead of just landing gracefully on his feet after soaring down hundreds of feet, the velocity would carry him into the ground so fast – it’s likely he would become batjam on toast, in messy, little, splattered superhero pieces lying pulverized on the ground!
David Marshall, Tom Hands, Ian Griffiths and Gareth Douglas of the University of Leicester composed the paper “trajectory of a falling Batman” as part of a fourth year Masters program. The paper was for a Physics Special Topics module which encourages students to apply physics to unusual scenarios – well they certainly nailed that aspect of it!!
The students analyzed the wingspan, height of decent and velocity of batman’s cape during his traditional flights down tall buildings and they exposed some seriously big problems for our caped crime fighter.
We all know that the batcape is made of ‘memory cloth’ which sends an electrical current through it making it rigid for flight like a hang glider. However the students found that cape’s wingspan was only half that of a traditional hang glider and his velocity would peak to something like 68mph before leveling out to 50mph. Not really the kind of speeds that you want to be hitting the pavement at!!
Of course there are lots of variables that make a definitive answer difficult, obviously leaping from a taller or shorter buildings could make a difference as could batman’s weight, which nobody knows and probably depends on how many pies he’s eaten that week. However the study does seem to suggest that it is unlikely that Batman would survive the leaps we regularly see him undertake.
I guess these guys felt bad about totally destroying Batman’s flight myth so they came up with some ideas that Bruce Wayne Enterprises might want to think about incorporating into the next model. They suggested parachutes and jet propulsion might help Batman not to land face-first on the ground at speeds that would surely squish him in oblivion.
If you want to read the paper and get geeky with the calculations, you can check it out in the Journal of Physics Special Topics