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Physicists find chink in Batman's suit

On the lighter side

Tuesday, July 10, 2012    

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PARIS, France (AFP) — Batman would need a parachute to land safely in real life, say physicists who recommend a cape redesign if the masked superhero is to pursue his exploits outside the pages of comic books or celluloid.

On the big screen, the crime fighter is able to glide from tall buildings using a cape spread out like wings — similar to the method used by base jumpers who leap from bridges, buildings and cliffs wearing winged suits.

But unlike these real-life daredevils, Batman does not have a parachute.

Given his current cape design, Batman could glide to a distance of about 350 metres (383 yards) if he were to jump from a building about 150 metres high, a group of four University of Leicester physics students found.

"The problem with the glide lies in his velocity as he reaches ground level," they wrote in the university's Journal of Special Physics Topics.

"The velocity rises rapidly to a maximum of a little over 110 kilometres per hour (68 miles per hour)," they wrote in the paper entitled Trajectory of a falling Batman.

"At these high speeds any impact would likely be fatal if not severely damaging" — the equivalent of being hit by a car at 80 kph.

Batman's wingspan, at 4.7 metres, is about half that of a hang glider. The cape, which resembles a bat's wings, allows him to glide over the streets and rooftops in his home city Gotham looking for bad guys.

The scientists conclude that the crusader get a bigger cape, pack a parachute, or use propulsion jets to keep himself aloft.

"Clearly gliding using a batcape is not a safe way to travel," the group conclude, "unless a method to rapidly show down is used such as a parachute."

They also suggest that "he could follow the method of Gary Connery, who recently became the first person to glide to the ground from a helicopter using only a wingsuit, although he only made it down safely using a large number of cardboard boxes" to crash into.

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