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Science Lessons From… Batman

So you want to become the next Batman? Well, your first step may be to enrol in the unit ‘The Science of Batman’ at The University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. The unit views Batman as “a metaphor for the ultimate in human conditioning” in an attempt to understand the science of human physical potential. But Batman did not just rely on physical power and martial arts skills taught to him by Liam Neeson. Batman can thank his multi-billion dollar company and their scientific research for turning your average billionaire-playboy-come-martial-artist into a crime-fighting super hero. So how does one go about getting their hands on most of his gadgets and a slice of the crime-fighting action?

It took Christian Bale one year to go from a dangerously skinny 55kg in The Machinist to the 86kg physique he flaunted in Batman Begins. One year of physical training seems like a pretty quick way to become a super hero. Compare this to the Essendon Football Club’s use of peptides –they’re still not the best team in the competition despite all the juice.

Now you’re in shape it’s time to get the tools to separate you from the other hockey-pad-wearing Batman wannabees. Students at the University of Leicester have already analysed Batman’s 4.5m wingspan and found that a jump from 150m would yield a glide of around 350m, but would generate speeds of around 80km/h at street level-far too fast to prevent stopping without serious injury. Their proposed solutions to this problem include a small parachute or jet thrusters to level off and slowly bring you to a halt. This analysis also included a rigid wingspan, not the electrically stimulated memory fibre seen in the movie. Given that electrostatic flocking (the process of putting a charge through a fibre to change its shape) only yielded the billowing illusion and not the ability to glide, you may want to hold off jumping from roofs for a while yet.

The other parts of the bat suit are already here today. It wouldn’t be too hard to build something similar using neoprene from scuba diving suits and Kevlar from military body armour. Furthermore, the technology exists to create ceramic armour: a lighter, stronger and – when utilised as a series of interlocking plates – a more flexible alternative. The US military has proven it works against large-round sniper fire as well as close range gun shots so it should be fine against your average urban mobster.

Grappling guns and rapid ascenders are commonplace in the military, but aren’t yet anywhere near as small as Batman’s belt-enclosed device. They’re bulky and oversized, hardly the type of equipment you want to be carrying around as you engage in hand-to-hand combat with thugs. There’s also the issue of getting access to these gadgets, and even if you have a military contract I think that they would check to make sure you aren’t swiping the goods they’ve paid for you to develop.

The Batmobile used in the Christopher Nolan trilogy is based on the stripped down shell of a US NASCAR. The jet thrusters are purely for show, as doing this in real life has the real possibility of life-threatening injuries (just ask Richard Hammond about his land-speed record attempt). Gas turbine powered cars would be safer and date back to the middle of the twentieth century, but poor mileage and unreliability have seen them become little more than pipe dreams. The Batmobile weighed in at around five tonnes and would be a nightmare to brake and turn for any corners, much like the Batcycle. Weighing over twice as much as a sports motorbike, and with that ridiculously oversized front tyre, the Batcycle would also be more than a handful on the road. The rotating wheels that flip end on end would rip apart the tyres and their metal supports, and also serve to take longer to slow the bike down than standard braking, contrary to the depiction in the movie. Despite these drawbacks, the in-wheel motors eliminate weight in the form of gearboxes and driveshafts’s and are becomingly increasingly more prevalent vehicle development and refinement.

For now you might want to stick to hang gliding, base jumping and karate lessons to get experiences close enough to being Batman. There’s also the minor issue of Victoria Police having a harder line against vigilantes than the one taken in Gotham City. Take solace in the fact that there probably are many scientists working around the clock to bring your Batman fantasies to life. Think of the advancement in mobile phones over the last ten years, from the old indestructible Nokia bricks to today’s smart phones and realise that everything that exists today will be so much more powerful and compact in ten years. But for now, just be warned if you’re still intent on launching yourself up and down buildings be prepared to carry more equipment than a first year who actually buys all their textbooks.

About Christopher Pase

NBC’s Community led me to believe that at uni hacky-sack is a serious sport, avoid the occasional chauvinistic mature-aged student and those with patterns in their facial hair are probably drug dealers. After two years of my Arts (Global)/Science degree it appears Frisbee is accepted above hacky-sack, the Chevy Chase lookalike in my maths lectures is actually a nice guy and drug dealers are getting smarter by blending their sideburns in with the rest of us. That being said, my efforts at AXP were crudely compared to Chang’s marathon pop-and-locking and, as this bio demonstrates, my pop-culture references aren’t exactly streets ahead.

Christopher Pase

The author Christopher Pase

NBC’s Community led me to believe that at uni hacky-sack is a serious sport, avoid the occasional chauvinistic mature-aged student and those with patterns in their facial hair are probably drug dealers. After two years of my Arts (Global)/Science degree it appears Frisbee is accepted above hacky-sack, the Chevy Chase lookalike in my maths lectures is actually a nice guy and drug dealers are getting smarter by blending their sideburns in with the rest of us. That being said, my efforts at AXP were crudely compared to Chang’s marathon pop-and-locking and, as this bio demonstrates, my pop-culture references aren’t exactly streets ahead.

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