Why Getting Rescued By The Flash Would Probably Kill You

Thursday, 06 November 2014 - 10:44AM
Physics
Science of Sci-Fi
Thursday, 06 November 2014 - 10:44AM
Why Getting Rescued By The Flash Would Probably Kill You

Physics is a pesky thing in comics. Superheroes are usually breaking the laws of physics by definition, but we still demand some kind of internal logic, as the best sci-fi and fantasy portrays a relatable, recognizable world with a few fantastical elements thrown in there. That's why Gwen Stacy's back was broken when Spider-Man used his webbing to abruptly stop her from a high-velocity fall. Because physics. But according to a study by physics students at the University of Leicester, not all superhero narratives are as realistic, considering that most of the people The Flash "saves" would actually meet a grisly, Gwen Stacy-like fate.

 

The study, awesomely called The Flash: Hero or Villain?, uses an event in the pilot of the television show in order to illustrate that the force exerted by The Flash's speed is ultimately more dangerous than whatever he's saving the citizens of Starling City from. The abstract reads, "The CW Television Network's show 'The Flash' depicts the titular character rescuing a cyclist from being hit by a car. This paper discusses whether the act of being saved by The Flash is in fact more damaging than being struck by a car. The results suggest that The Flash can be a hero but will have to alter either his speed or his method to lessen the impact on the victim."

 

By calculating the amount of pressure exerted on the cyclist by The Flash pushing him out of the way using his super-speed versus the approximate amount that would have been exerted on him if he had been hit by the taxi, the students concluded that it would have been more noble for The Flash to leave well enough alone. Or, more accurately, he would do more good for the world if he lessened his speed slightly, which is blasphemy for Flash fanatics, I'm sure. Alternatively, just as physicists suggested that Gwen Stacy would have lived if Spider-Man had used several webs all over her body, rather than exerting all the pressure on her back, the students suggested that the Flash could make contact with a greater area of the cyclist's body in order to avoid injuring him.

 

Fans of the comics have already pointed out that DC already incorporated a catch-all explanation for The Flash's ability to avoid injuring his beneficiaries, as the Speed Force allows him to grant powers of super speed to whomever he's helping, so they wouldn't be affected by the laws of physics in the sense that the students are suggesting. But, to be fair, the students were specifically writing about the TV show, which as far as I know has not established that mythology yet.

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