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Reality check on superhero power

  1. Apr 19, 2017 #1

    chasrob

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    My story has a Superman analogue as the protagonist. His talents include the basic “flying brick” goodies, but no other powers.

    Early in the story, soon after he was “transformed”, he’s flying in for a landing in his current, drug-ridden, residential neighborhood at night. He happens to look into a large living room window. Three men are waving Uzis around. On the floor, obviously alive but laying face-down, are two women and three men. Sure looks like an execution about to happen. He can’t hear any conversation, and he stops in mid-air to see what’s going on.

    Suddenly one of the guys with a gun steps alongside one of the women, points it at the back of her head and shoots one shot, with obvious consequences. WTF? The super, new at this heroism gig, gapes and moves closer to the window. Almost immediately, the gunman turns to the next in line, another woman, and lines up a point-blank shot, about a foot away from her head.

    Shifting into his enhanced reaction mode, superguy sees him pull the trigger. In through the big picture window he comes, catching the bullet as it exits the barrel.

    Ok, the hero crosses, say, 8 meters in the time it takes a bullet travelling 375m/s to exit out a 197mm barrel (Uzi specs). My calculator says the super moved at roughly 55,000 km/hr; 34,000 mph; Mach 45. What would happen? Consider the consequences of his movement the same as if a man-sized missile did the honors. IOW, a 2 meter long, 90 kg massive object.

    Other than wasting his clothing... will the superguy kill everyone in the room? And trash the building besides? Now would be a good time for him to lawyer up?

    With a reaction time of 1.6 nanoseconds, what could he do to avoid catastrophe, without making things even worse?
     
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  3. Apr 19, 2017 #2

    DaveC426913

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    ...except super-duper speed and reaction times....

    Throw a rock instead?

    Actually, even at that, the rock would have to reach orbital speed. It would develop a shock front. Yeah. Even a rock would kill the shooter and the victim and blow out the wall, and carve a large crater in the ground.
     
  4. Apr 19, 2017 #3

    chasrob

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    So the shock wave from something with his mass moving at that speed, so close to the people would probably turn them into chunky salsa? Jeez, I'm actually starting to question the veracity of the old Superman stories.
     
  5. Apr 20, 2017 #4

    Ryan_m_b

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    Take a look at this test firing of a US Navy experimental railgun:
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a21174/navy-electromagnetic-railgun/

    The projectile in this case is "only" travelling at Mach 6 and it leaves a trailing fireball of a shockwave. Your superman is travelling ~7x faster than that and has a whole lot more surface area. IIRC the superman spinoff show Smallville was pretty good in this area. When Clark Kent was moving at superfast speeds you saw a sort of rippling bubble around him, anything within the bubble didn't seem too badly affected by his movements. I don't know if the show writers intended it but I always imagined that part of his magic abilities was to project a star-trek style inertial dampening field around himself that would smoothly move the air and objects around him, massively negating the effect of his super-speed passing.
     
  6. Apr 20, 2017 #5

    chasrob

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    Alas, my character has no magic abilities beyond the usual flight, invulnerability, super strength and speed. About 20 seconds into that video they show the projectile moving cleanly through the air. Ergo, how can anything possibly go wrong at mach 45? :wink:
     
  7. Apr 20, 2017 #6

    Ryan_m_b

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    In that case your character is definitely going to fly less like superman and more like Neo in the second(?) matrix film in which a city is virtually destroyed as he drags a hurricane behind him. I don't think people will be heralding him as a hero for that! More likely they'll assign him to more appropriate work, like this:

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2305
     
  8. Apr 20, 2017 #7

    chasrob

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    Hey, everyone can breathe easier now. In fact, supes can allow the bullet to exit the barrel plus the distance to the target; a half meter all told. So he can dial it down to mach 17.6, by my reckoning. That, or he'll definitely have to resist peering into windows in the future.
     
  9. Apr 20, 2017 #8

    chasrob

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    Good link.:smile: I do have the MC having publicity problems in the story.

    I see another problem with my scenario. According to the capabilities I gave my character (which I pulled out of um... thin air) there may be nothing he can do about the shooter and the victim.

    He has about 1.5 nanosecond reflexes in his enhanced state. Which also means, story-wise, one second in his frame is equal to 1.5 ns in everyone else’s frame.

    So if he can see the trigger pull, my calculator says he has 7 1/2 months to decide what to do by the time the (slow) bullet hits the target. In his frame of reference. Good; plenty of time to regard his next move, yes?

    But about seeing the trigger: superguy’s vision is 20/15. Good but nothing super. Maybe he can see the trigger finger movement from 8 meters away in a lit room; maybe not. The trigger is pretty obvious in an Uzi.The hammer itself? Didn't see it in the pictures I've seen.

    If he can’t pick up the finger pull of the gunman, then what? The gunshot? Speed of sound is 343 m/s. The bullet has long ago hit the target. Depending on sound is not gonna work. So it’s all up to whether he can perceive a trigger pull. Think that’s possible with his 20/15 eyesight?
    Or maybe he could move as soon as the shooter takes aim.:cool:
     
  10. Apr 20, 2017 #9

    Ryan_m_b

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    You have a bigger problem than whether or not he can recognize a trigger pull through a window (but honestly any "hero" who waits for a trigger to be pulled to intervene in a situation where someone is pointing a gun, after murdering another victim, is a moron). If this person can crank up their "mental clock speed" by a factor of 666 million they aren't actually going to be able to see or hear anything. From the hero's perspective all light suddenly becomes massively redshifted beyond the ability to perceive and all sound drops orders of magnitude beyond infrasonic. Unless the hero has magic senses too he isn't going to be able to act in speedster mode.

    EDIT: Actually I don't think the light would become redshifted but the number of photons entering the eye per-second would go down by a factor of 666 million. Which would be extremely dark.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  11. Apr 20, 2017 #10

    chasrob

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    I don’t understand. The light wave length stretches? If he moves his head I can see that. Any normal movement by him would be magnified 666 million for a short distance and the wavelength stretched by that distance? If he’s standing still, could he just see a scene before him, the last photons to hit his eyes? Anyway, his perceptions and reactions are variable to almost a nanosecond. He didn’t necessarily put the pedal to the metal. What magic senses does he require?
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  12. Apr 20, 2017 #11

    chasrob

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    Hmm, I wonder if he gets the power to slow his reactions down a million-fold... his eyes are swamped with photons? To everyone else he's an indestructible statue.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  13. Apr 20, 2017 #12

    Ryan_m_b

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    Ignore the question of light frequency, I don't think that would actually change. But the number of photons entering his eye per second (relative to his accelerated position) would decrease by a factor of hundreds of millions. He wouldn't see the last scene before him because the image would disappear instantly, assuming enough photons entered his eye to even activate his photoreceptors.
     
  14. Apr 20, 2017 #13

    DaveC426913

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    And momentum is proportional to the square of the speed, so it has 49x more momentum.
     
  15. Apr 20, 2017 #14

    DaveC426913

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    Hang on. It is not a given that an enhanced reaction time automatically requires actually living his life at that speed.
     
  16. Apr 21, 2017 #15

    chasrob

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    Story-wise it is. Although that is something to consider, if I understand you correctly.
     
  17. Apr 21, 2017 #16

    DaveC426913

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    Ah. OK then.

    IMO, that is a completely different story. The effect of actually living thousands of times faster than the rest of the world has broad implications. He could essentially stop every crime in New York city simultaneously and stop for a nap after each one. He could prevent every traffic accident. He is essentially moving around in a frozen world.
     
  18. Apr 21, 2017 #17

    chasrob

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    But he presents a problem when shifting to the nanosecond mode, Dave. If a second is the same as a couple ns. to the outside world, then any movement he makes is amplified 600 million times. Maybe ok in outer space, but in atmosphere? He brings his hand up to scratch his chin, at what seems to him to be a normal pace. The shock waves alone would devastate the neighborhood. He's in normal time, sees an airplane going into a dive and about to augur into the ground, he shifts into high, zips down at what he sees as a casual pace. And waste the aircraft and terrain for miles around. Vigilantism? Let trained lawmen uphold the law; only interfere when he happens upon a situation where he could do some good.

    Another thing I didn’t realize at the time—when I cooked up his numbers, I set his max velocity--flight or any movement he can make--at about 0.5 c. When he’s in quick mode, that means he can’t move faster than 25 cm per second in his POV, no matter what effort he puts into it. Slo-Mo. So if the plane is a few km away, he thinks it’s taking him forever to get there. Confusing. But the plane (and everything for that matter) is frozen in place; there is that. Just more confusion.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  19. Apr 21, 2017 #18

    DaveC426913

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    Indeed. It has always bothered me in such speedster stories when the hero swoops in to grab the damsel and whisks her out of the way. You never hear about broken necks.

    I've oft considered writing a story and trying to be as accurate as possible. Essentially, if our hero is sped up by 100 times, then everything - including people and air - should effectively have 100 times the inertia. Air would feel like soup; he would create eddies as he pushed his way through it. Our damsel would mass 5000kg. Now, when he attempts to move her, all her limbs will react as if extremely hard to move. If he shoved too hard, he would literally be tearing her body away from her 200kg head.
     
  20. Apr 22, 2017 #19
    Looks like you should stick with the idea that the hero has a built-in warp drive, that extends somewhat around his body. This would soften the air and other things he wants to move around. Hopefully it would not speed the bullet up as he tries to catch it...
    The problem with low light might he harder to solve. He might use his warp sense to feel matter around him... but seeing a distant trigger being pulled... not likely.
     
  21. Apr 22, 2017 #20

    chasrob

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    You mean something of the sort like a Kirlian/ L-Field? It's been used elsewhere, as a sort of telekinesis effect--or something. Here's one comic's explanation. Thought about using it a couple times, but, a tad too much voodoo methinks :smile:. I just thought i'd go with the protag working with what he's been dealt. Conflict, y'know?
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
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