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(Scientific American)   10 Sciencey facts about Superman   (blogs.scientificamerican.com) divider line 56
    More: Cool, Superman, laws of science, Jerry Siegel, inert gas, surface gravity, Joe Shuster, kinetic energy, logical fallacy  
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5429 clicks; posted to Geek » on 14 Jun 2013 at 3:49 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-06-14 11:47:09 AM  
1 science fact about Superman:
He's Fictional.
 
2013-06-14 12:14:09 PM  
7. Superman probably shaves with an angle grinder.

I thought it was quite clear that he shaved by using a parabolic mirror and his heat vision
 
2013-06-14 12:35:55 PM  
By flying really, really fast around the Earth, Superman will actually speed into the future, not the past. In fact, by the time he is done, he might return to find everyone he knew dead of old age.

Except for Lois, who still died when her car was sucked into the ground.
 
2013-06-14 02:32:26 PM  
Famously, at the end of Superman II, Superman (fantastically played by Christopher Reeve) is so distraught by the death of Lois Lane that he tries to turn back time.

Actually that was Superman (orginal)...Superman II is Zod, etc
 
2013-06-14 02:43:34 PM  

Torgo_of_Manos: Famously, at the end of Superman II, Superman (fantastically played by Christopher Reeve) is so distraught by the death of Lois Lane that he tries to turn back time.

Actually that was Superman (orginal)...Superman II is Zod, etc


Or was it really at the end of Superman II but he went back in time so it showed up at the end of Superman.
 
2013-06-14 03:04:20 PM  

grokca: Or was it really at the end of Superman II but he went back in time so it showed up at the end of Superman


My bet is that he pulled a Futurama and flew into the next version of the universe,
which is actually Superman (version) II
 
2013-06-14 03:19:15 PM  

Torgo_of_Manos: Famously, at the end of Superman II, Superman (fantastically played by Christopher Reeve) is so distraught by the death of Lois Lane that he tries to turn back time.

Actually that was Superman (orginal)...Superman II is Zod, etc


Since that was what I was going to post, I'll just link to my favorite scene from the Superman films:

Computer Turns Ugly Woman Into Freaky Robot
 
2013-06-14 03:54:57 PM  

Torgo_of_Manos: grokca: Or was it really at the end of Superman II but he went back in time so it showed up at the end of Superman

My bet is that he pulled a Futurama and flew into the next version of the universe,
which is actually Superman (version) II


Richard Donner cut?
 
2013-06-14 04:00:46 PM  

Torgo_of_Manos: Famously, at the end of Superman II, Superman (fantastically played by Christopher Reeve) is so distraught by the death of Lois Lane that he tries to turn back time.

Actually that was Superman (orginal)...Superman II is Zod, etc


THIS!  I stopped reading after that blunder.
 
2013-06-14 04:03:22 PM  
First, his home planet of Krypton had much more mass than Earth, making the surface gravity of the planet much higher. His muscles are overqualified for 1G. Living on Earth after growing up under the stress of intense gravity would be like you moving to the Moon (you'd finally be able to dunk).

I can understand that the bone structure of Kryptonians most likely evolved to be stronger in order to combat the extra gravity. But, Kal El was sent to Earth when he was a baby. How much strength conditioning on Krypton did he really have before being sent here? Like, if I lived on the Moon for a long time, wouldn't my bones/muscles suffer some sort of entropy by non-use? Does Superman just have a higher ceiling of potential, thus he can use train cars, etc, to work out and keep himself at peak form?

Anyways, Superman is lame.
 
2013-06-14 04:05:56 PM  
www.chud.com
 
2013-06-14 04:06:16 PM  
I haven't watched the movie yet, but since all Kryptonians become superpowered when exposed to the radiation from a yellow sun, won't Clark be extra powerful since he grew up on Earth and was exposed to that radiation his entire life compared to Zod and the other Kryptonians who just arrived?
 
2013-06-14 04:14:47 PM  

Car_Ramrod: Anyways, Superman is lame.


What, you don't like stories about invincible boy scouts?
 
2013-06-14 04:15:12 PM  

ArkAngel: 7. Superman probably shaves with an angle grinder.

I thought it was quite clear that he shaved by using a parabolic mirror and his heat vision


If you're going to write an article about how superman shaves you think they'd have at least typed "how does superman shave" into Google. The answer is literally the first image that shows up.
 
2013-06-14 04:19:01 PM  
Taking away the flying -- which just defy known physics -- the amount of energy Superman can expend when moving obvious is far more than the energy even 100% absorption of photons would give with the surface area of a person over the course of days.

I suppose you could say he only uses the photons to metabolize energy from other things, but what other things? Does that mean he needs to eat? But he simply converts far more energy from food than humans? The level of power he has would involve near-direct mass->energy conversion.
 
2013-06-14 04:20:19 PM  
11.  You dont tug on Supermans cape.
 
2013-06-14 04:21:37 PM  

imgod2u: Taking away the flying -- which just defy known physics -- the amount of energy Superman can expend when moving obvious is far more than the energy even 100% absorption of photons would give with the surface area of a person over the course of days.

I suppose you could say he only uses the photons to metabolize energy from other things, but what other things? Does that mean he needs to eat? But he simply converts far more energy from food than humans? The level of power he has would involve near-direct mass->energy conversion.


I'm not a DC reader so no clue.  I know at one time he didn't even have to breathe since he can fly through space to other planets.  These days, I have no clue if he needs to eat, breathe, etc.
 
2013-06-14 05:03:04 PM  
Does it explain who the fark powerless Superman and Lois got back to civilization from the north pole?
 
2013-06-14 05:30:05 PM  

Mugato: Does it explain who the fark powerless Superman and Lois got back to civilization from the north pole?


Chili Dogs, Mt. Dew and they split a snickers bar

/which is, coincidentally, my cure for a hang over
 
2013-06-14 05:32:58 PM  

Mugato: Does it explain who the fark powerless Superman and Lois got back to civilization from the north pole?


They took the Supermobile.
 
2013-06-14 05:36:07 PM  

I know there is a general dislike for all things Daniel Tosh around here but I always thought this was pretty funny.




How does superman fly faster?
 
2013-06-14 05:50:06 PM  

PsyLord: imgod2u: Taking away the flying -- which just defy known physics -- the amount of energy Superman can expend when moving obvious is far more than the energy even 100% absorption of photons would give with the surface area of a person over the course of days.

I suppose you could say he only uses the photons to metabolize energy from other things, but what other things? Does that mean he needs to eat? But he simply converts far more energy from food than humans? The level of power he has would involve near-direct mass->energy conversion.

I'm not a DC reader so no clue.  I know at one time he didn't even have to breathe since he can fly through space to other planets.  These days, I have no clue if he needs to eat, breathe, etc.


The Donnerverse Superman told Lois that he does eat, when he is hungry. The Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Superman stated that he does not eat, though he does consume large quantities of junk food regardless.
 
2013-06-14 05:50:46 PM  

Dimensio: PsyLord: imgod2u: Taking away the flying -- which just defy known physics -- the amount of energy Superman can expend when moving obvious is far more than the energy even 100% absorption of photons would give with the surface area of a person over the course of days.

I suppose you could say he only uses the photons to metabolize energy from other things, but what other things? Does that mean he needs to eat? But he simply converts far more energy from food than humans? The level of power he has would involve near-direct mass->energy conversion.

I'm not a DC reader so no clue.  I know at one time he didn't even have to breathe since he can fly through space to other planets.  These days, I have no clue if he needs to eat, breathe, etc.

The Donnerverse Superman told Lois that he does eat, when he is hungry. The Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Superman stated that he does not need to eat, though he does consume large quantities of junk food regardless.


I have corrected my error.
 
2013-06-14 05:55:16 PM  

imgod2u: Taking away the flying -- which just defy known physics -- the amount of energy Superman can expend when moving obvious is far more than the energy even 100% absorption of photons would give with the surface area of a person over the course of days.

I suppose you could say he only uses the photons to metabolize energy from other things, but what other things? Does that mean he needs to eat? But he simply converts far more energy from food than humans? The level of power he has would involve near-direct mass->energy conversion.


Agreed. Even assuming as axioms the explanations for why his body can perform feats of immense strength, it still requires energy (darn physics, you know). And the energy required to do a thing like lift a supertanker upward out of the water, push apart continental shelves (!!!), and accelerate to relativistic speeds, would require vast amounts of energy in a short time, that can't possibly be accounted for by solar panel skin. In fact the summed output of all the world's nuclear power plants wouldn't be enough to do some of the things he does.
(Note that you can't do "mass to energy" conversion on photons, since they are already energy quanta, i.e. massless.

Not only that, but when he performs such a feat of strength, we would expect him to be radiating immense amounts of heat (unless his metabolism is inexplicably 100% efficient and heatless). Nearby people should be getting fried from convection, or sunburn from the radiation coming off him.
 
2013-06-14 05:57:50 PM  

Torgo_of_Manos: Famously, at the end of Superman II, Superman (fantastically played by Christopher Reeve) is so distraught by the death of Lois Lane that he tries to turn back time.

Actually that was Superman (orginal)...Superman II is Zod, etc


Watch the director's cut for Superman II. He does the exact same damn bloody thing, to prevent the... uh... flying window prison.... from breaking to begin with. Which is also why Lois doesn't remember at the end who he is.

/better movie overall. But that ending sucks ass.
 
2013-06-14 06:27:23 PM  

WippitGuud: Torgo_of_Manos: Famously, at the end of Superman II, Superman (fantastically played by Christopher Reeve) is so distraught by the death of Lois Lane that he tries to turn back time.

Actually that was Superman (orginal)...Superman II is Zod, etc

Watch the director's cut for Superman II. He does the exact same damn bloody thing, to prevent the... uh... flying window prison.... from breaking to begin with. Which is also why Lois doesn't remember at the end who he is.

/better movie overall. But that ending sucks ass.


I haven't seen the director's cut of II so I will take your word, but then the article guy still is screwing up because he is saying that SM reversed the earth's rotation, and hence time, because of LL's death.
 
2013-06-14 06:30:18 PM  

Saiga410: 11.  You dont tug on Supermans cape.


media.tumblr.com
 
2013-06-14 07:05:17 PM  

ThrobblefootSpectre: imgod2u: Taking away the flying -- which just defy known physics -- the amount of energy Superman can expend when moving obvious is far more than the energy even 100% absorption of photons would give with the surface area of a person over the course of days.

I suppose you could say he only uses the photons to metabolize energy from other things, but what other things? Does that mean he needs to eat? But he simply converts far more energy from food than humans? The level of power he has would involve near-direct mass->energy conversion.

Agreed. Even assuming as axioms the explanations for why his body can perform feats of immense strength, it still requires energy (darn physics, you know). And the energy required to do a thing like lift a supertanker upward out of the water, push apart continental shelves (!!!), and accelerate to relativistic speeds, would require vast amounts of energy in a short time, that can't possibly be accounted for by solar panel skin. In fact the summed output of all the world's nuclear power plants wouldn't be enough to do some of the things he does.
(Note that you can't do "mass to energy" conversion on photons, since they are already energy quanta, i.e. massless.

Not only that, but when he performs such a feat of strength, we would expect him to be radiating immense amounts of heat (unless his metabolism is inexplicably 100% efficient and heatless). Nearby people should be getting fried from convection, or sunburn from the radiation coming off him.


Honest question: Doesn't everything we know about the ability of Superman go out the window when we consider that he is an alien? I would imagine that with the technology that sent him here and anything contained in his Fortress along with artifacts taken from various villains would account for some of the abilities he displays as opposed to raw physical strength.

Couldn't lifting the tanker come about as a result of strength and magnetic resonance?
 
2013-06-14 07:15:05 PM  
I also want to know where The Hulk gains all his extra mass from...
 
2013-06-14 08:24:43 PM  
Notice, when the Hulk "catches" things...they are destroyed, bent, crushed.

When Superman catches things...they stay together.

Why??

Tactile Hyper Telekinesis.

Meaning, his powers derive from telekinesis...but it has to be himself, or something he's touching.
So a copter, plane or person isn't damaged by his flying with it.
He keeps it together structurally, including against wind resistance.

I don't know if that's scientific...but at least it's rational.
 
2013-06-14 08:56:32 PM  

ArkAngel: 7. Superman probably shaves with an angle grinder.

I thought it was quite clear that he shaved by using a parabolic mirror and his heat vision


I'm pretty sure that was in a comic.
 
2013-06-14 08:57:55 PM  
The fumbled the ball on the Batman point. Superman annihilates Batman.

Second, they also fumbled it on his secret ID.

The reason why his "secret ID" works it's because he doesn't really have a secret identity. To the people of the Earth, Superman real name is Kal El and he lives in the Arctic. That's common knowledge. And since on top of that he doesn't use a mask, why would they think he has a second secret ID?

So Clark looks like Kal, and? Do you think your plumber that looks like Obama is actually Obama moonlighting as a plumber?
 
2013-06-14 09:04:03 PM  

rocky_howard: The reason why his "secret ID" works it's because he doesn't really have a secret identity. To the people of the Earth, Superman real name is Kal El and he lives in the Arctic. That's common knowledge. And since on top of that he doesn't use a mask, why would they think he has a second secret ID?



i.imgur.com
Approves.
 
2013-06-14 09:08:00 PM  
FTFA: "First, his home planet of Krypton had much more mass than Earth, making the surface gravity of the planet much higher. His muscles are overqualified for 1G. Living on Earth after growing up under the stress of intense gravity would be like you moving to the Moon"

i.imgur.com

Wonders why Supes (and every adult Krytonian) looks like a normal human.
 
2013-06-14 10:58:48 PM  

smadge1: I also want to know where The Hulk gains all his extra mass from...


...and how his pants withstand it.
 
2013-06-14 11:25:15 PM  
Gah!!!  What happened to Bill Nye?
 
2013-06-14 11:39:21 PM  

ThrobblefootSpectre: (Note that you can't do "mass to energy" conversion on photons, since they are already energy quanta, i.e. massless.


I meant metabolize food into energy using sunlight as the catalyst.

Not only that, but when he performs such a feat of strength, we would expect him to be radiating immense amounts of heat (unless his metabolism is inexplicably 100% efficient and heatless). Nearby people should be getting fried from convection, or sunburn from the radiation coming off him.

He may be crazy efficient as far as energy generation (hell, he'd have to be). And as for things like friction due to how fast he travels, I can accept some proposals regarding an EM aura of some kind that separates him from the local air.

How he punches things across the Earth in seconds without causing small tornados, however....
 
2013-06-14 11:43:53 PM  

smadge1: I also want to know where The Hulk gains all his extra mass from...


Have we established that he actually weighs more when in Hulk mode? He seems to manage to step onto things without breaking them. When he does break things by stepping on them, it's usually because he jumped really really high and landed on it.

In fact, if he weighed a lot, the distances he jumps while running would cause craters to form. Which they don't.
 
2013-06-14 11:47:55 PM  

Cookbook's Anarchist: Honest question: Doesn't everything we know about the ability of Superman go out the window when we consider that he is an alien? I would imagine that with the technology that sent him here and anything contained in his Fortress along with artifacts taken from various villains would account for some of the abilities he displays as opposed to raw physical strength.

Couldn't lifting the tanker come about as a result of strength and magnetic resonance?


It doesn't matter *how* it's achieved. Conservation of energy (as far as we know) still applies. That energy, whether to generate a magnetic field, bend gravity, etc. etc. has to come from somewhere. It'd pretty much have to be one of those because if you apply the weight of a tanker in a small area the size of 2 hands, you'd break the metal instead of lifting the tanker.

I guess Kryptonians could be born with the ability to bend spacetime and reduce something's mass....

But then you have the energy problem again. Unless there's no conservation of energy for Kryptonian - they generate it from vacuum energy or something.
 
2013-06-14 11:58:13 PM  
Required reading for Superman nerds:

http://www.rawbw.com/~svw/superman.html
 
2013-06-15 12:17:44 AM  
The most powerful superhero of all time, Superman, has arguably the worst disguise of all time.

Not only that, but he also has arguably the most recognizable face in all of modern fiction. Which considering he has had multiple artists and actors and such spanning 50+ years, that's quite a feat.
 
2013-06-15 12:28:05 AM  

imgod2u: Cookbook's Anarchist: Honest question: Doesn't everything we know about the ability of Superman go out the window when we consider that he is an alien? I would imagine that with the technology that sent him here and anything contained in his Fortress along with artifacts taken from various villains would account for some of the abilities he displays as opposed to raw physical strength.

Couldn't lifting the tanker come about as a result of strength and magnetic resonance?

It doesn't matter *how* it's achieved. Conservation of energy (as far as we know) still applies. That energy, whether to generate a magnetic field, bend gravity, etc. etc. has to come from somewhere. It'd pretty much have to be one of those because if you apply the weight of a tanker in a small area the size of 2 hands, you'd break the metal instead of lifting the tanker.

I guess Kryptonians could be born with the ability to bend spacetime and reduce something's mass....

But then you have the energy problem again. Unless there's no conservation of energy for Kryptonian - they generate it from vacuum energy or something.


We don't know the efficiency of conversion he gets from food he eats and photons he absorbs.  He could very well gain all he needs from those two sources, provided he is near 100% photon absorption efficiency (across the entire EM spectrum from the sun, parts of which activate his ability to absorb and use the wavelengths his race can't use on krypton), and handles food like a matter furnace.  In fact, it could be that the wavelengths he absorbs on earth turn on a matter furnace ability in his body to break down food to a subatomic level.  This gives him all the energy he needs to do what he does, and wouldn't violate conservation.

/turns off level VIII nerdiness
 
2013-06-15 12:36:20 AM  

Khellendros: We don't know the efficiency of conversion he gets from food he eats and photons he absorbs.  He could very well gain all he needs from those two sources, provided he is near 100% photon absorption efficiency (across the entire EM spectrum from the sun, parts of which activate his ability to absorb and use the wavelengths his race can't use on krypton), and handles food like a matter furnace.  In fact, it could be that the wavelengths he absorbs on earth turn on a matter furnace ability in his body to break down food to a subatomic level.  This gives him all the energy he needs to do what he does, and wouldn't violate conservation.

/turns off level VIII nerdiness


That depends. Super-strength to move tankers, perhaps. Super-speed to accelerate to light-speed? Not possible. Superman has mass x. His food has mass y. We can safely say mass y is less than mass x. Even if you convert all the mass of y into energy (e=mc^2) -- and in this case, the energy from photons (of all wavelengths) is negligible compared to that of matter -> energy -- to accelerate the mass of x to lightspeed, you'd need e=mc^2 where m=x worth of energy, which y doesn't provide.

I guess if he ate his weight in food and somehow is able to store that energy, it could be done. He'd weight 2x what he normally does and after a quick trip at lightspeed, come down to normal weight; a sort of Kryptonian bulimia, if you will.
 
2013-06-15 12:40:20 AM  

imgod2u: That depends. Super-strength to move tankers, perhaps. Super-speed to accelerate to light-speed? Not possible. Superman has mass x. His food has mass y. We can safely say mass y is less than mass x. Even if you convert all the mass of y into energy (e=mc^2) -- and in this case, the energy from photons (of all wavelengths) is negligible compared to that of matter -> energy -- to accelerate the mass of x to lightspeed, you'd need e=mc^2 where m=x worth of energy, which y doesn't provide.

I guess if he ate his weight in food and somehow is able to store that energy, it could be done. He'd weight 2x what he normally does and after a quick trip at lightspeed, come down to normal weight; a sort of Kryptonian bulimia, if you will.


Good point.  I suppose for FTL travel, we have to assume some sort of warp field ability.  Else Einstein gets us.
 
2013-06-15 12:44:10 AM  

Khellendros: Good point.  I suppose for FTL travel, we have to assume some sort of warp field ability.  Else Einstein gets us.


Warp fields aren't exactly free either. And it's actually within the realm of reality as of late. But so far, it requires "the energy equivalent to the mass of Jupiter" to create for a small satellite the size of Voyager.

It seems nothing's free in the universe according to known physics. But that's why I said vacuum energy a few posts back.
 
2013-06-15 02:46:51 AM  

imgod2u: Have we established that he actually weighs more when in Hulk mode?


static.comicvine.com

Eyeballing it, Hulk's volume is at least twenty times that of Banner, so if he doesn't gain mass, he's less dense than a styrofoam peanut, and he'd be hard-pressed to put a dent in a pillow, regardless of how much momentum he built up.

I don't know what the canonical Marvel explanation is, but when pressed on matters like these comic book writers usually fall back on some version of "he draws the extra matter from another dimension." In its way, that's more plausible than Hulk crushing a car with a fist that weighs less than a pound.
 
2013-06-15 02:52:35 AM  

semiotix: regardless of how much momentum he built up


I should have said, regardless of how high he falls from. Momentum is precisely what he'd have difficulty building up, considering how small his terminal velocity would probably be with Banner's puny mass and Hulk's gigantic air-catching surface area.

/because when we're discussing the physics of things that are seventeen different kinds of impossible, it's important to use the proper terminology
 
2013-06-15 02:57:01 AM  

semiotix: semiotix: regardless of how much momentum he built up

I should have said, regardless of how high he falls from. Momentum is precisely what he'd have difficulty building up, considering how small his terminal velocity would probably be with Banner's puny mass and Hulk's gigantic air-catching surface area.

/because when we're discussing the physics of things that are seventeen different kinds of impossible, it's important to use the proper terminology


Well, we do see that he doesn't actually create craters when he falls. As for other forms of "denting stuff", that takes significantly less force than terminal velocity would restrict him to.
 
2013-06-15 03:29:55 AM  

imgod2u: Well, we do see that he doesn't actually create craters when he falls. As for other forms of "denting stuff", that takes significantly less force than terminal velocity would restrict him to.


We can safely assume that Hulk's knees and other joints absorb a considerable amount of the force of impact, and his gargantuan feet distribute it such that cratering is avoided. If Hulk's density is the same as Banner's, then he'd weigh somewhere between one and two tons (depending on the artist), or about as much as a compact car. You can drop one of those from a considerable height without seriously cratering a road. The suspension plus the spring in the air of the tires, combined with the widely distributed surface area, is all you need.

The 150-lb Hulk, on the other hand, could basically never do some of the things he's shown doing, even if his skin were made of adamantium (which is to say, super-fantastically hard and inflexible). Hulk frequently inadvertently destroys buildings in fights, either by punching them or being thrown against them. Neither is really plausible if we're talking about something the mass of a male weakling human (or just his fist).

Observe:

s2.postimg.org

Even if Hulk's 3/4-lb fist were traveling at the speed of a rifle bullet and made of a perfectly incompressible material, it wouldn't be enough to pulverize a live, foot-thick tree trunk like that. (Shoot a pound of rifle bullets at a tree if you're not convinced.) But if we assume that his fist weighs more like twenty pounds, then it becomes more likely.

In conclusion: insomnia is a biatch and now on top of it all I'm hungry for Hostess® Fruit Pies.
 
2013-06-15 03:32:17 AM  

clambam: Required reading for Superman nerds:

http://www.rawbw.com/~svw/superman.html


Mr. Niven erroneously assumes that Kryptonian reflexes would, in all cases, be identical to human reflexes.

The television series Smallville explicitly addressed Mr. Niven's concerns by stating that Clark/Kal-El received training on "control" specifically for intimacy. Of course, the series also established the possibility of using blue Kryptonite to entirely eliminate risk of injury to a human partner.
 
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