Falling Batman

The Economist is handing out year-end awards for wacky science, one of which goes to the team that published a paper on the trajectory of a falling Batman last summer. The Economist summarizes the findings, which are not encouraging for future Batmen:

“if Batman jumped off a 150-metre-tall structure he might expect to glide comfortably to a distance of 350 metres. But the students also reckon that the bat-suit cannot generate enough lift and that he would crash-land at a speed of 80kph (50mph) . . . .

“That sounds about right: most wing-suit jumpers record a similar glide ratio, as the forward distance gained for every one-metre drop is known. In May Gary Connery became the first man to jump from a helicopter, suspended 730 metres (2,400 feet) above ground, with only a wing suit. Mr Connery was airborne for about 40 seconds before landing at over 100kph on a lawn scattered with 18,600 cardboard boxes (covering a total 1,500 square metres) to cushion his fall.

“Batman’s landing strips tend to involve parked cars, construction sites, rundown industrial estates—or his antagonists. Given his strong frame and the body armour, he might just survive the fall, but would probably require extensive hospitalisation. In the real world, then, the cape would be of little use, other than to frighten enemies off, as bats do with their wings on sensing danger.”

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