The Science of X-Men #4

Posted by RazzaTazz (9450 posts) - - Show Bio

It has been a long time since I did a "Science of ..." blog, mostly because my reading preferences shifted away from the science-focused series of the early new 52 (well actually DC shifted away as well, cancelling regular Science of ... series Mr. Terrific, Firestorm and Captain Atom.) At the behest of a friend I have started reading the mostly all female X-Men. I am still a little lost in terms of the characters, but the science I can tackle. This issue is divided between Wolverine and Jubilee in Los Angeles and the remainder of the team trying to assist a plane in distress over the Sierra Nevada mountains. There was no science in the Jubilee part, but the other part had some (spoilers obviously).

Cord Strength

I never would have thoughts of it before, but how does one make a line or cord out of telekinetic energy? There is unfortunately no common answer as when Rogue descends the cord between the two planes the cord that she is shown to be using is both flexible and inflexible. It would stand to reason that any cord of TK energy would be absolutely straight as it is not a type of energy which is considered to be at all normal. Despite this, the strength of any cord is at its weakest at the exact center point of the cord, which therefore asks the question, why are the X-Men flying their aircraft so far away from the plane. The larger the distance the greater the strain and the more likely that the cord will snap.

Verdict: Comic science

Air resistance

I am not saying that the above panel is impossible to achieve at least in terms of the desired effect, but it certainly wouldn't work like this. The stall speed for a large airplane like a passenger jet is well above the speed that it would take to blow a regular person easily off of holding a cord, no matter how strong they were. OK ... Rogue is a superhero and could be using some built up whatever to hold on, but even if she were it would look nothing like how she is depicted here, somewhat casually crawling down the TK line. Instead she would be essentially hanging on for her life and hoping that gravity could do its work and pull her down, providing that the downward force of the gravity was not overcome by the sideways force of the drag.What would have been a lot easier? Get in front of the plane and let both the drag and the gravity work, but they approached from behind for some reason. I guess they wanted more of a challenge.

Verdict: Bad Science

Material Stresses and Pressure

So for a pretty accurate look at what would be the real effect of a mid air intervention, it is worth checking out the movies Superman Returns and The Dark Knight Rises. Don't check out too much of Superman Returns, as it is mostly bad science except for the part where Superman tries to grab the wing and the wing falls off. In TDKR the wings tear off after Bane and his men have grabbed hold of the plane. The common theme here is that wings rip off really easily of airplanes. So it makes very little sense to focus the telekinetic energy on the wings. Another thing to consider is the weight. I am not sure how much a loaded airplane weighs (let's just say ... a lot) and to hold a plane up by two cords in this way is going to accomplish two things. It is going to cut right through the X-Men aircraft and it is going to put a ridiculous amount of weight on two small points on the plane below meaning that regardless of where the TK cords are, that they are going to tear through the plane. The thing is though, that the weight and the momentum of the plane are mostly fixed in the equation, so spreading telekinesis over the entire hull or on a small point is going to require the same amount of effort and it would not make the plane go topsy-turvy as it would have done (like in TDKR.) If there is one salvageable point it is that the the X-Men's aircraft can produce a lot of thrust, and probably as much as a fighter jet, which means that lift is not as much of a consideration to fly. That being the case, it might actually be able to handle the load.

Verdict: Bad Science

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#1 Posted by etragedy (1042 posts) - - Show Bio

Well, I just watched Luthor teleport a henchman (who was wearing nothing but a business suit) into outer space and then back again a few minutes later, and he was perfectly fine - so by that yardstick, the science here is pretty good! :)

#2 Edited by RazzaTazz (9450 posts) - - Show Bio

@etragedy: Where was that? I can do another Science of ... for that one ...

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#3 Edited by etragedy (1042 posts) - - Show Bio
#4 Posted by RazzaTazz (9450 posts) - - Show Bio

@etragedy: Oh I thought it was something new, old time science fiction sure got a lot of stuff wrong though.

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#5 Posted by etragedy (1042 posts) - - Show Bio

@razzatazz: Yeah, but there's a difference between getting things wrong because science didn't know yet - and getting things wrong because of laziness.
Isaac Asimov wrote "Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus" but when it was reprinted later he said in his own defense, at the time it was written, science thought Venus was covered by a planet-wide ocean.
On the other hand, I'm pretty sure (though not positive) that by 1950 it was known that space was a vacuum(?) - haven't been able to find exact fact on when that was.

If you want though, I can keep my eye out for modern comics with bad science if you want to do more "Science of..." 's

#6 Edited by RazzaTazz (9450 posts) - - Show Bio

@etragedy: Surviving is outer space is not necessarily such a problem. There is a misconception about freezing to death, burning, or of exploding. The main problem is suffocation. Of course, there would be a lot of worse problems, for instance if Luthor and the other guy were talking to each other

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#7 Edited by Delphic (1459 posts) - - Show Bio

@razzatazz: Something that has always confused me as far as planes and jumping from aircraft to aircraft. Maybe it wouldn't be as bad if a cord was leading from the back of one aircraft to the front of another, but in instances say when one jumps from the back of the aircraft onto the hull of the following one. Wouldn't the momentum technically be enough to shatter most of the bones in the persons body?

Also the whole idea of say jumping onto the plane and sliding along the hull to you could catch a hold of say a latch or the tale of the plane, wouldn't the resulting force be enough to technically rip a person's arm off?

#8 Posted by RazzaTazz (9450 posts) - - Show Bio

@delphic: I am not sure about the first one, but the second answer is kind of yes, but it is more likely to rip off whatever the person grabbed onto. For the first question, I guess it would depend if you somehow controlled your rate of travel. In a sense in the air you are weightless and equally what is important is not the momentum of your self in relation to the ground, but rather to the receiving plane.

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#9 Posted by knighthood (1693 posts) - - Show Bio

Nice blog post. At least they didn't forget the face mask for Rogue.

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