Student Scientists Determined the “Best-Equipped” Superhero According to Physics

June 13, 2016 | Joanne Kennell

Batman and superman lego
Photo credit: aitoff/pixabay (CC0)

Find out which super powers really are feasible.

Do you have a favorite superhero? Is it Superman because of his strength, the Flash for his speed, or Iron Man because of his technological genius?

Although the fierce debate concerning the “best superhero of all time” will likely continue for eons, to have a little fun, students at the University of Leicester used some simple calculations to offer a scientific explanation for the powers behind some of our most beloved comic book superheroes.

In a series of peer-reviewed papers published between 2009-2016 in the University of Leicester’s Journal of Physics Special Topics and Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, students examined whether or not some of the superhuman abilities are, in fact, possible.

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Who took the top spot? That would be DC’s Superman, followed closely by Marvel’s Wolverine, Mystique, and Thor. According to the student’s work, based on the range of superpowers at his disposal, and the only limiting factor being that he acquires his energy from Earth’s sun, Superman is best equipped to win in a battle between all of the studied superheroes.

Here’s the breakdown: If Superman obeys the “Law of Energy Conservation,” by absorbing energy from the sun, he could output an energy of 7.07x105 Joules per second. But if his body disobeys the conservation, Superman could release energy in the amount of 3.86x1010 Joules per second — which is more energy than an atomic bomb. What’s more, Superman may have a higher density muscle tissue than the average human, which could help explain how he can stop bullets.

In second and third place are the X-Men Wolverine and Mystique, who are rife with mutant abilities. Along with his strength, Wolverine has incredible regenerative capacity, which is likely achieved by bypassing the “Hayflick Limit,” allowing stem cells to divide indefinitely. This constant cell turnover may also provide Wolverine with an immunity to foreign chemicals and diseases.

Mystique, on the other hand, is a master of gene manipulation. She can disguise herself regardless of age, gender, or race. This manipulation likely means she can heal quickly and has a decreased rate of aging. According to the students, MATP, TYR, MC1R, IRF4, and SLC24A4 are probably the first genes to be mutated, which would result in the biggest changes in her skin, hair, and eyes.

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In fourth place lands Thor, a Norse god. He is capable of producing lightning, which in itself can inflict 108 Joules of energy, and just one throw of his hammer, MjoLnir, assuming it is composed of iron, can inflict an injury sustained by getting hit with a 100-kilogram car traveling at 78 kilometers per hour (48.5 miles per hour).

But as the story goes, by determining the best superhero, you inadvertently discover the worst. According to the researchers, that title goes to Gotham’s “Caped Crusader,” Batman. Using a cape to travel may be useful while gliding through the night sky, but when Batman reaches the ground level traveling at speeds around 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour), it would likely be fatal. Batman would still need a parachute to land without getting injured.

The researchers also looked at The Flash, Black Bolt, Silver Surfer, Spider Man, Iron Man, The Lizard, and Ice Man. You can take a look at their rankings below.

Superheroes ranked by feasibility of super powers

Image credit: University of Leicester

Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.

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