How does the Flash (or anyone at super speed) perceive time?

#1 Posted by lightsout (1885 posts) - - Show Bio

I've been on a kick of analyzing how various characters' powers work, and after mass-googling I still wasn't able to find theories regarding the Flash (plenty on Superman though) - so I decided to get opinions here.

I accept/understand that The Flash can also perceive things at high speeds. This would lead us to believe that when Flash moves at super speeds people & things around him appear to be moving much slower than normal -- while they would perceive themselves at normal speed & Flash at super speeds. This is pretty much the chosen effect whenever a fictional character is undergoing movement at super speed. I haven't read any of Flash's own books (outside specials) but I have seen this model used before.

If this is the accepted "way" speed works, my question is regarding how any Flash (or really anyone who has super speed & perceptions) perceives himself moving. I read a summary of Flash (v2) #30 where Wally 'snapped' into super-speed mode when he was about to be hit by a sniper's bullet in a movie theater & walked around to grab the other bullets. This is simple enough, and pretty cool to imagine (taking a few moments and stopping a whole volley of bullets).

However, it is when he is traveling that this question really makes me scratch my head. If he runs across town or even across country, does he see himself as running "normal" speed and having it take as long as it would to do in real life? His perceptions would have to be heightened to some degree (if not having to be maximum) so he could recognize obstacles in his running path and make the appropriate course correction. Depending on what roads he was running on (in my cross country example), he could probably run at speed one could safely drive in a car (that is, he is actually moving so fast everyone slows down, but he feels as if he's moving as fast a car -- where one could still react fast enough in turning and avoiding things) , but that would still be an extremely long trip (coast to coast) in his perception. I can't speak for everyone, but I would imagine so much time between being alerted of a problem to arriving on scene would eventually be maddening (let's say he's on the east coast of the US and the rest of the JLA calls him to come help on the west coast - he's thinking about it the length of a long car trip).

The one theory I came across was that his memory is much more short-term when in a state of super-speed, so that he is always "running in the now" and trips never seem to have lasted that long (say, 15 minutes). This person based this on a time it was shown that Wally could read and learn information at super speed, but not retain it for long after that (I have no idea when or in what comic this was said....or not said). This sounds like a good explanation, but seems like it only explains this issue for the Flash (unless it's not just for the Speed Force, and rather a "universal super-power rule" that super-thinking (perceptions, learning, etc) doesn't automatically include super-retention). Granted, maybe because most of the other super-speedy characters fly above most obstacles, they wouldn't need everything around them slowed down as much.

Does anyone find this theory applicable? Or have another, more solid theory?

#2 Posted by Supreme Marvel (11569 posts) - - Show Bio
Superman 709
#3 Posted by lightsout (1885 posts) - - Show Bio

@Supreme Marvel: That basically confirms the first part (regarding everything slowed down due to heightened perceptions), but not the second part (the real question)

#4 Posted by lightsout (1885 posts) - - Show Bio

Well, it seems this has died, but I'll still share another thought I hadn't originally had. Speed (when running) is basically a combination of stride length & frequency. When your feet hit the ground there's a slight push upward, then your stride length is however far the horizontal component of your speed carries you before gravity brings you back down from the slight "hop" up. In The Physics of Superheros by James Kakalio he discusses whether or not Flash could run vertically up a building (granting him the assumption of super human speed), concluding he could not run because there'd be no perpendicular force against the building to cause friction for traction, but if he could change the direction of his extreme speed he could leap to the top of the building. He notes that because of the mechanics of running, one stride would be further than the proposed 660ft tall building. This sort of ruins the comic-science fantasy image of it all, since we accept that Flash perceives his surrounds at a relatively normal speed (anywhere from "frozen" to enough that he can still react to obstacles & such) this means he's seeing himself take strides that are hundreds of feet long or more. And that's if we don't accept that it completely ruins the entire theory of "running fast but perceiving it like you're running normally" (for instance, if he had 1,000ft strides it would severely hinder his ability to alter his course and avoid things (or just turn) mid-stride). Really, it's just easier to say it's time manipulation like Zoom uses (wherein the user would actually be running normally with normal stride length, everything else would just be slowed). That or the Speed Force grants him control over his molecular movement/momentum (I don't recall where I read it, but it was a theory that Flash can fly by willing the movement of his molecules in any direction but he "prefers running" (aka, the character is written so that running fast is his trademark). This could perhaps negate the issue of changing direction despite long stride lengths).

#5 Posted by Video_Martian (5650 posts) - - Show Bio

It's a comic book...

#6 Posted by Coldcy (1 posts) - - Show Bio

If we assume that the Flash as an almost "Automatic sensory nervous system" then we can assume his brain works just like that.

When Wally got touched by the bullet,the time around him slowed down to almost a complete stop.My theory is that the speedster perceive time slightly slowed down but if they are about hit an object,their reflexes speed up dramatically and time time slows down even more so they can easily run around it.If they did that,they will start to speed up again.

As far as I,as a Flash fan, know he can basically speed up and down as he likes.Still there was a part (can't remember the issue) where Wally was about to get back on his feet from a jump and he was "just waiting to fall" so I guess there are rules to this mess.

If you have faster reflexes,events must pass faster,because your brain takes less to actually process them.From a scientific point,I'd say he runs fast,thinks fast and time passes just as fast for him.

#7 Posted by DragoMorph (31 posts) - - Show Bio

If I'm not mistaken, he can pretty much think as quickly or as slowly as he wants. So he goes about his day normally, and in a battle situation he speeds up to the point where people stop moving entirely so he can handle whatever threat he's facing. His travel thinking time is probably somewhere in the middle, though closer to regular thinking speeds. He most likely perceives himself at super speed to make long trips bearable (so that he's not, say, walking across the country at human speed) and lets his reflexes take care of any obstacles in his path.

#8 Posted by Flash1777 (74 posts) - - Show Bio

in my opinion i think what happens is know when you run and you look at the ground its a blur or if you in a car and you look forwards its completley clear but to your side its again a blur so one of my theories is that he can see everything infront of him completley fine another theory of mine is that he just does everything superfast if you were doing the dishes just imagine doing that but really fast or everything slows down but he still moves really fast...thing i don't understand is if everything slows down how can he talk normally and why would you circle the world if its just like normal iy would feel like weeks.

#11 Edited by ErikMcBurney (1 posts) - - Show Bio

What really matters is leg power, and the speed you're able to move your legs, however I do agree with lightsout and also Coldcy about their theories too. As a matter of fact, all of our theories are all possible ways someone could use super speed, depending on who is thinking about it.

Actually, what if we are all missing the real thing? what if the person with "super speed" in question is actually bending time around them, causing everyone around them to go slower?

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