Hang on to your hats, kids. Word comes across the pond from the soggy, foggy fields of the University of Leicester in England that the Batman movies are not super realistic! I imagine Christopher Nolan waking up in a cold sweat from the news that his dark, gritty trilogy that follows the caped crusader is actually rather fantastical and silly after all.
According to the paper, titled “Trajectory of a Falling Batman” (which, incidentally, is the name of my first book of personal essays about coming of age in my twenties in New York City), the four University of Leicester students (go… oh, y’all don’t have mascots?) studied some physics behind Nolan’s first film in the trilogy, Batman Begins, and discovered the following:
The path of Batman as he glides from the top of a building can be estimated by iteratively calculating the x and y components of the acceleration at each point, which are then added to the velocity components in the next iteration. The velocity at each iteration is multiplied by the time step to approximate the distance moved during that time. This method essentially approximates the motion as a series of linear accelerations
The area of Batman’s cape during flight is shown…to give A = 2:20 m2… The drag coecient is approximated using the value for a bird as CD ≈ 0:4, approximating the cape as a plain aerofoil CL ≈ 1:45. The lift coecient may be lower in reality, this value assumes that the cape is highly optimised. Using these values the iteration is performed for a stationary start with a time step of 0:02s.
Um, sure, everybody knows that, but do go on!
Batman’s descent is rapid, even for this high estimate for the lift coecient. Looking at the case for gliding from a fairly tall building of height 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 km=hr before steadying to a constant speed of around 80 km=hr. At these high speeds any impact would likely be fatal if not severely
So, what you’re saying is… Batman cannot fly. Fascinating study! I can’t wait to hear the one saying that Mr. Freeze couldn’t actually survive within a cryogenic suit. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be over on this side of the internet watching cat videos and hoping that finally someone will use science for something awesome, like hovercrafts and time travel.