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Superhero shenanigans

  1. Oct 8, 2012 #1

    chasrob

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    I’m writing a story about a super-powered being and thought it would be neat to quantify his capabilities. Usually, he’s normal, human, but he can ramp up into super phase where
    A)His actions and perceptions are cranked up to the point where one second of his “time” is equal to 1.67 nanoseconds of ours (yep, I just basically plucked the number out of the air).
    B)The maximum velocity at which he can move is about 100,000 miles per second, roughly half light speed.

    So, by his perception, a photon of light would travel about 20 inches a second, eh? How would you think his eyeballs would perceive light? What I came up with was that light would flutter, black to white, over and over like a light bulb in a dark room, turned on and off. Would you think he would be able to make out anything concrete at all, or would he see white flashes before his eyes? Or maybe multi-color explosions of light. He probably would seem to be in an altogether different world.

    All motion around him would come to a complete halt, frozen as it were. If he moves at the speed above, it would seem to be in slow motion; I figure he could move at only about 11 inches per sec. Like being under water, maybe. Since sound travels at a measly mach one, how would he experience that? Some kind of deep bass tone in the background?

    I just thought it would be interesting to try and describe this in a novel setting and get you folk's reactions… I saw this videohttp://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/trillion-fps-camera-1213.html, and it got me thinking about it. :)
     
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  3. Oct 8, 2012 #2

    Ryan_m_b

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    You can't see light, your eyes detect the light when the photon is absorbed by the rod or cone cells in ones eye. To see a photon would suggest a photon bouncing off of a photon. If that were true the whole universe would be opaque.

    As for the speeds at half the speed of light and roughly 500 million times faster perception it would take this hero a second to move one foot. He'd also devastate the environment with supersonic shock waves, possibly even causing a nuclear explosion in atmosphere (see here for why http://what-if.xkcd.com/1/ ). It would also take ~20 years from his perception for a clock to switch one second. In summary your hero seems very overpowered lol.
     
  4. Oct 8, 2012 #3

    phinds

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    Not really a good idea. Ryan's "In summary your hero seems very overpowered" was a bit tongue in cheek. "overpowered" would be VASTLY understated if meant seriously, as you can see from his figures.

    If you are going to pull things out of the air, do it with things you have some understanding of, such as "he can move 10 times faster than normal humans".

    It seems unlikely that you would say "he can move a billion times faster than a normal human" because that just sounds silly.
     
  5. Oct 9, 2012 #4

    chasrob

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    Hey, thanks for the very cool link. Yeah, I knew any movement at that relativistic speed would be catastrophic, but hadn’t thought about actual fusion going on. I thought there would be ionization of the air molecules, explosively probably, if it happened in atmosphere.

    But fusion? Any element below iron will fuse, but with escalating difficulty. H-bombs employ lithium-6 or deuterium(easier to fuse than H2, oxygen, or carbon, and then only under tremendous compression. A compression I don’t see in their baseball example(the opposite of compression, hitting air molecules). The assembly would blow apart before much fusion would occur, wouldn’t it? Don't see much ablative action going on. If my protag hurled that baseball, maybe it would be a kewl plasma jet whatchamacallit against his foes.:) Zapping his opponents, in the nude, heh, heh.

    Okay. How would you think he would see the world, in that accelerated state, assuming he has rods and cones?
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012
  6. Oct 9, 2012 #5
    It stands to reason that he'd be effectively blind, I'd say. Without even having to think about it in terms of redshift, just consider that the amount of light that hits our retina in one second would hit his retina spread out over a billion seconds. In other words, he would see the world at a brightness level a billion times lower than we do. That's nowhere near enough to see by, surely.
     
  7. Oct 9, 2012 #6

    Ryan_m_b

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    Elements above iron will fuse as well but will not generate more energy that it takes to do so. Fusion does require a lot of energy but a man-sized mass travelling at half the speed of light gives you a lot of energy; 9e17J to be precise which is enough to power the entire world for nearly 17 hours. That's equivalent to over 200 megatonnes of TNT which is 4 times as powerful as the biggest nuclear device ever detonated and ~14,000 hiroshima bombs.

    In conclusion, your superhero is very capable of causing fusion in atmosphere.
    The ball does ablate but imparts its kinetic energy onto the ball of plasma it's creating.
    I agree. He'd also be completely deaf as all sound drops below human hearing. Asking what he senses at this stage is academic though as any slight movement is going to create supersonic shockwaves that destroy everything around and himself. And other movement will cause the explosion I've highlighted above.

    As phinds pointed out this idea is extremely overpowered. He's conjuring up nuclear arsenals of energy at whim. If that's what you're going with there are far better uses for him than petty vigilantism
     
  8. Oct 9, 2012 #7

    chasrob

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    Ah, yes, very good analogy. He’d have to have very sensitive eye organs to detect any light at all. At least when he’s in that state.

    Hmm… since I have him capable of dialing perception from normal to that maximum, I could use light flux as his personal indicator of how much he has “ramped up”, so to speak. In the story he is an ordinary Joe, who gets transformed(TM), and since there’s a lack of a user’s manual, has to learn by trial and error, mostly. Luckily for him, he’s also invulnerable.

    It actually helps me in one scene. He’s sitting on a bench, at a beach, at night… he gets careless and shifts into high, confused by the poor lighting. He shifts a leg from being crossed at the knee to feet side-by-side. I could dial the speed with which he does this from 0.54c down to merely astronomical, and still set up a shock wave focused out to sea.
    Troubles ensue.
     
  9. Oct 9, 2012 #8

    Ryan_m_b

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    Obviously this superhero is going to have to be invulnerable as well. The shockwave would devastate his body.
     
  10. Oct 9, 2012 #9

    chasrob

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    You're right, Ryan. In that state he would deaf, dumb, and blind; any movement would cause chaos--kill everyone around him. In outer space, not much better. I had him able to move that fast so he could have interplanetary range, within a reasonable time.

    I wonder if there is any useful application in the ability to repeat an action six hundred-something million times a second? Or is he just a destructive menace? Build a car a million times faster than usual, say.

    Great link, thanks.
     
  11. Oct 9, 2012 #10
    I suspect that won't do it.

    For example: Direct sunlight has an energy content of about one kilowatt per square metre. A human pupil is something like 3 mm across, so its area is 10^-5 square metres, which gives us an energy flux of 10^-2 Watt. A visible photon has an energy of some 10^-19 Joule, thus the photon flux into our eye if we look directly at the sun is 10^17 per second. Divide that number by a billion, and it's only 10^8 per second. Meaning that your protagonist can see the Sun, which is a good start.

    Now, let's consider a full Moon. That's about 10^5 times dimmer than the Sun, which means a photon flux of only 1,000 per second. That's certainly no longer enough to build a stable picture. Instead of seeing a bright disk, he'd see a thousand individual and ephemeral points of light somewhere within the area subtended by the Moon each second. It might look like a glitter effect and be actually quite pretty, but it wouldn't be very useful.

    At night, that and other light sources would be it. Anything merely lit by those would have a brightness another several orders of magnitude lower, which would no longer be enough to make out shapes. During the day, things illuminated by sunlight are as bright as or brighter than the Moon, so he should be able to do things like locate a dark doorway in a white wall. With a lot of practice, he may be even be able to make out, over time, where the door handle is located on a closed door, if it has a sufficiently different colour. Indoors, with most things lit by indirect or artificial light, he'd once again be pretty much blind, though.

    So, the situation is not quite as hopeless as I expected, if he has senses or sensors which can detect individual photons - and from what I've been told, that's actually just within human perception, for perfectly dark-adapted eyes and photons in the upper (bluer) half of the visual range. Heh.
     
  12. Oct 9, 2012 #11

    Ryan_m_b

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    He's a destructive menace. Any use of his power will strike him senseless and destroy everything around him. My advice would be to dial down a bit, rather than plucking Really Big Number out of the air and trying to work backwards lets start with the type of things you want him to do and work from there.

    In essence it's forward, back, forward until there's a sound, consistant character. Decide the type of scenarios you want the character to be in, work backwards to figure out the powers they would need to do that, work forwards again by figuring out the secondary effects of said powers to see if they alter the scenarios presented and what they bring up by themselves (e.g. superman should be able to get anywhere at any time, therefore superman needs to be able to fly supersonically any time effortlessly, however is superman can do this then we could use him to solve world issues and provide free energy etc).
     
  13. Oct 9, 2012 #12

    chasrob

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    So in the video in my first post, each frame a billionth of a second, they basically spent an hour building up enough data so it was visible, apparently?
     
  14. Oct 10, 2012 #13

    Bandersnatch

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    Hmmm, I've read a book called "Robot" by a little-known Polish SF author named Adam Wiśniewski-Snerg, that played with a somewhat similar concept. After all, whatever you think of, somebody else has already thought of it before you.

    At one point the protagonist found a way to cross to a copy of his world, where time passed some 100-ish times slower than normally(I don't remember the exact ratio).
    Him and everything he brought with himself(through a looking glass-kind of thing, no less) still kept the original world's time rate.

    So he found out that he can't breathe without an artificial oxygen source, as the air gained mercury-like density. Even moving about required swimming movements and was extremaly exhausting. He could see only in gamma wavelengths, or if he brought a light source with him - but he realised that he's basically giving everyone in the slow-world large doses of radiation.

    The regular objects in the slow-world from his perspective gained huge inertia, as he had to apply force for prolonged periods of his time to change their paths or otherwise interact with them. On the other hand, such interactions were often devastating for the slow-world, as him being able to deliver regular man's impulse of force in the slow-world's split of a second meant that he gained both superhuman strength and nigh-invulnerability, unwittingly thrashing some equipment and braking some bones(or worse).

    The people of the slow world percieved him as a dark blur, and even that only if he stopped in some place for a moment. There was also some kind of accompanying sound caused by all that rapid air displacement as he moved.


    I'm not sure if I recall it all correctly as it was in the book, I've read it over a decade ago, after all. A very good read, by the way. I highly recommend it, providing you can find a translation.
     
  15. Oct 10, 2012 #14

    chasrob

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    I found a Roboter book by Wisniewski-Sneg in Abe's Books page. It ships from Germany, but is in Polish :frown:. Amazon has several books by him, but all unavailable.

    Yes, any bright idea you have for SF... if you research deeply enough, someone else has done before, and probably better. I have this brilliant concept: superfellow finds this Ni-Fe asteroid, sends it zipping into earth orbit for harvest. I mentioned it somewhere on a forum, and poster informed me that its been done before in a story... in the 1890's!
     
  16. Oct 10, 2012 #15

    Bandersnatch

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    Yeah, it does look like there is no English translation available(yet! This might become my pet project, heh).

    But anyway, don't let this stop you from exploring your idea further. The episode in Robot was rather superificial to the story, and felt kinda-sorta tacked-on. There's still a lot of things to write about this premise - especially with regard to how does this ability affect his life, his interactions with regular people, his psyche. Does he overuse it(and thus appear to age faster than normal people)? Does he think himself god? What exactly does he do with it? And so on.
     
  17. Oct 10, 2012 #16

    chasrob

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    So, I suppose I'd better not mention about him shifting into overdrive and into the Trans-Planckian realm, then? Such as light travel time across a Black hole electron?
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
  18. Oct 10, 2012 #17

    Ryan_m_b

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    That's....insane lol. He wouldn't be able to move at all, the entire universe would be invisible to him and even at half speed of light he would be frozen. And one second for the outside world would be roughly 1000000000000000000000000000000 times more than the age of the universe to him.

    I'll say again my advice would be to look into what scenarios you want him to be in, work appropriate powers into that, then work forward again to think of the ramifications of these powers paying particular attention to if they render the scenarios obsolete.
     
  19. Oct 12, 2012 #18

    chasrob

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    You're right, again. The protagonist should have something readers are able to visualize and be appropriate within reason for each situation.

    A tip of the hat to you folks for your able assistance!
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2012
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