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The Science of Superheroes: How Marvel Movies Are Bad at Physics

The science-fiction movie world has presented some superhero stunts that would make any person seated watching wish, "If only that could happen in real life."

Marvel Studios has produced many movies and characters that we love and rush to the theaters to watch. They range from The Avengers to the X-men, and the Spider-Man films. If you know anything about movies, then you must be quite aware of how these films take their audience on adventurous journeys that are otherwise impossible if the rules of physics or biology came into play. It is what makes these superheroes "super." What if the laws of physics were to apply though? What would happen? Would you love the film less? Most probably! There would be no superheroes. Take a look at some examples that illustrate how Marvel movies are bad at physics.

Superhuman Ability to Catch Falling Objects or People at the Last Minute

A common drill in almost all superhero films. You see people falling to certain death, but just in the nick of time, a superhero miraculously swoops in to catch them just before they hit the ground and the victim seems to be fine. For instance, when Spider-Man saves Mary Jane from falling in Spider-Man 3 (2007). 

If you are a scientist, physics would dictate that if you want to have a safe landing, either on concrete or Spider-Man's hands, you should be able to gradually slow down to reduce the impact. If physics was to apply here, the landing impact would harm both Spider-Man and Mary Jane.

Storm's Ability to Generate Lightning Bolts

Storm is a superhero from the X-men franchise who other than the super ability to manipulate weather, can also release a lightning bolt of about 500 million joules. To produce such energy, one would require an intake of about 120,000 calories; otherwise, the body would disintegrate. You don't see her eating or craving for food. Where does she get all that energy?

The Lord of Thunder Hammer

What is the magic behind Thor's Hammer? Why can't anybody else lift it? If Mjolnir is that heavy, how does Thor manage to walk over a bridge or place it on a coffee table without crushing them? Newton's second and third law would prevent the hammer from resting on any surface without breaking it, considering its weight. Also, the laws of gravity cannot explain how the hammer can fly itself into Thor's hand without falling flat to the ground.

Captain America’s Shield

Steve Roger’s shield is made of vibranium, which allows it to absorb vibrations from blows targeted at it, hence protecting the one who is using it. For the same reason, it should not harm whomever Cap throws it at, or even ricochet from walls. Yet, you have seen it do the exact opposite countless times. The shield partially fulfills Newton’s third law of motion that states that for every action, there is an equal, opposite reaction. It usually nullifies the force exerted by absorbing it. However, this would mean that it should not bounce off objects or make any sound.

Magneto's Ability to Create Magnetic Fields

He is a super-villain from X-Men movies with the ability to produce extremely powerful magnetic fields, which can turn a satellite dish to face another direction or lift cars 10 meters off the ground. In physics, magnetic fields are created by running currents on a solenoid. Does this mean that Magneto has a solenoid with a high current embedded in him to produce such magnetic energy? If so, can the biology of a human heart handle such energy without succumbing to heart failure or worse?

Where does the Hulk’s mass come from?

When you compare Bruce Banner who is 5’10" tall, and the Hulk is 7’6", there is a lot that does not make sense, starting from how does he become so big? The law on conservation of mass clearly states that mass can neither be destroyed nor created. If the Marvel universe existed in reality, the Hulk’s mass would be more than Bruce Banners, he would not have the muscles he has, and his bones would easily fracture.

Also, have you ever wondered how he always manages to keep his pants on even when he transforms? In real life, if a 5’10" man tried to wear the pants of another that is 7’6", they would fall straight to the ground. The waist of Banner’s pants would need to stretch at least 1.75 times to fit. Most normal pants cannot do that. If he wears pure spandex pants, then stretching might be possible. But you haven’t seen him wearing spandex, have you?

The only science that explains most of the incredible stunts pulled by superheroes in the Marvel movies is the science that exists in their alternate fantasy universe. They impress audiences but are a total violation of the physical reality and breaks every rule of science.

The only reason viewers sit back and enjoy the film is that they realized it is just fantasy. However, that has not stopped some people from trying to pull such stunts in real life. The little these mind-blowing films can do is include a caution notice informing the viewers that the superhero stunts are pure fiction and should not be tried at home.

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The Science of Superheroes: How Marvel Movies Are Bad at Physics
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