So after checking out the reviews for Flash thus far on the site, I decided that I might check it out for myself (in fact I am doing this with a couple of series.) The second issue hit upon an interesting concept that I thought I might look into the science of, but these analyses are always on numerous topics. No worry I found one other one (as always there are spoilers in here.) I also should apologize ahead of time the explanations here are kind of long.
Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect
The cool moment of the issue for me was when Barry figures out how to channel the Speed Force into his thinking thus giving him a form of precognition (or as was stated here augmented cognition.) Usually in comics when someone has precognition it is either magical or psionic in origin and thus doesn’t bear a scientific investigation. Here though Barry can see everything happening before it happens. Piecing together all the necessary components of a chain of events Barry foils an armed robbery and even the getaway vehicle through a sequence of chain reactions, involving even saving the innocent bystander by giving him something to pick up off the ground. It was a well-conceived sequence and I liked it a lot, just it doesn’t necessarily flow with science. Although this doesn’t tie directly into chaos theory, it is related. Chaos theory says that in a system in which all of the components are in control, that a small change in initial condition can have a huge change on the effect. In that sense this is kind of like chaos theory in reverse, no matter how chaotic the beginning, the end result is controlled. For Barry to be successful at this he would need to have considered every single aspect of the chain of events, and not the superficial stuff that he did. Plus this also ignores certain aspects of psychology, you can’t look at someone and know they are going to pick up something from the ground, even if it was a bar of gold. It is an interesting power for the hero, and well handled, just sadly one which is wed to comics.
Verdict: Comic science
Laminar Flow, Thrust and Lift
In writing this series of articles it should be always remembered that I am not a physicist but that physics plays into these things all the time (I liked the Aquaman issue which was all about the environment which is what I study.) Finally though a field of physics which I can speak knowledgeably on if only because I watch a lot of Air Crash Investigation (or did until I saw the whole series.) At the end of the issue some group of villains sets off a bomb which knocks out all the electronics in the area, including those in an airplane. To explain briefly how gigantic pieces of metal can fly it works sort of like this: the engines push forward and create thrust, this thrust causes air to move over and under the wing, the movement of this air is controlled by the design of the wing to create something called laminar flow which relates to the fluid dynamics of air, this air creates a low pressure on top of the wing and high pressure on the bottom, and the differential in pressure allows the plane to fly upwards or to maintain its altitude. If the electricity on a plane went out so too would the engines, but this does not mean that the plane would fall from the sky in such a case. Measures can be taken to maximize the ability of the plane to stay aloft. In 2001 an Air Transat flight had a fuel emergency on the way to Lisbon and had to divert to the Azores in which it flew with engines for about 120 kilometers. Granted in this case the plane is presumably either in a holding pattern or on final approach to the airport and thus has less time to stay aloft, but it wouldn’t really fall out of the sky as pictured here. The pilot and air traffic controllers would probably still be able to land the plane safely. Of course it might stand to reason that the air traffic control tower is out of operation, but it still doesn’t mean the plane would aim for a bridge as a landing spot. At the very least pilots are trained to land in water as opposed to land (as in the Hudson River Miracle) so that if they do go up in a ball of fire, they don’t take out a bunch of other people with them. And bridges are usually over top of rivers.
Verdict: Bad Science
As always I am a novice at a lot of this stuff, if you think you know better let me know.