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# Science explains Superman

Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
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Here is a scholarly paper attempting to provide a unified explanation for all Superman's powers by positing the existence of one supernatural ability -- the ability to arbitrarily alter the momentum of particles. Although I find the argument intriguing, I have to ask why Superman has never been observed using this ability explicitly -- i.e., he could make a baseball almost massless, then throw it incredibly slow, like Bugs Bunny did that one time. I think more study is warranted.

Monu Tripathi
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As regards flying, which is one of the powers that Superman has, Douglas Adams, in his book, "Life, Universe and Everything" also attempted to explain the steps one needs to undertake in order to fly:

Step1(the easiest): Fall
Step2(the harder part): Miss the ground

If Mr. Adams is correct, Superman was good at both!

Pat Farrell
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Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:he could make a baseball almost massless, then throw it incredibly slow, like Bugs Bunny did that one time.

I don't get this. If the baseball is nearly massless, any force would make it go incredibly fast (F = MA)

Additionally, I don't see why you would want to throw it really, really slow, as the batter would be able to take a bath, change clothes, and still swing and hit the ball. The result would be a ball that travels to Mars or maybe even Krypton

Now, if it made it incredibly massive, like a near black hole, then threw it even at a MLB speed, then the batter might hit it, but it would surely break the bat and not go far. Of course, you would have to then change its mass back, or the catcher would not be able to pick it up

Henry Wong
author
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Pat Farrell wrote:
I don't get this. If the baseball is nearly massless, any force would make it go incredibly fast (F = MA)

Additionally, I don't see why you would want to throw it really, really slow, as the batter would be able to take a bath, change clothes, and still swing and hit the ball. The result would be a ball that travels to Mars or maybe even Krypton

With a slow ball, you can strike out the side (3 batters, 9 strikes), with only one pitch.

Henry

Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
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First of all, @Henry: that was precisely what I was thinking of, thank you!

@Pat: I'm torn. I absolutely agree with your point about the excessive velocity imparted by a finite force on an infinitessimal mass. On the other hand, a very heavy ball would not travel slowly, but immediately fall to the ground. No one is proposing that Superman has the ability to make a ball super-heavy, but also throw it super fast. That's just silly. He can do one or the other, but not both. I don't think you read the paper very carefully

Pat Farrell
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Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:First of all, @Henry: that was precisely what I was thinking of, thank you!

Great cartoon. Thanks Henry

Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:On the other hand, a very heavy ball would not travel slowly, but immediately fall to the ground.

But as long as we are dealing with Newtonian physics, a very heavy ball and a normal baseball drop to the ground at exactly the same speed. The pitcher's arm imparts horizontal velocity, see Bug's in Henry's video. If the heavy baseball was thrown at the same speed, then it would follow the same curve.

Granted, to do that, Superman would have to both make the ball heavy and throw it with Super force.

fred rosenberger
lowercase baba
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Pat Farrell wrote:But as long as we are dealing with Newtonian physics, a very heavy ball and a normal baseball drop to the ground at exactly the same speed.

I may be mistaken, but if the ball is heavy enough, and therefore has enough mass, there will be a different gravitational force between the 'heavy' ball and the Earth vs. the 'light' ball and the Earth. Wouldn't that effect the speed at which the ball falls?

Further...if he can alter the momentum of the ball, couldn't he continuously alter the 'downward' momentum back to 0, thus keeping it hovering at whatever height?

(i have not been able to read the article at all...

Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
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Pat Farrell wrote:
But as long as we are dealing with Newtonian physics, a very heavy ball and a normal baseball drop to the ground at exactly the same speed. The pitcher's arm imparts horizontal velocity, see Bug's in Henry's video. If the heavy baseball was thrown at the same speed, then it would follow the same curve.

You are neglecting buoyancy effects. If the density of the ball becomes equal to that of the surrounding air, then the slow ball can be thrown a long way horizontally without sinking.

Mark Spritzler
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Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote: i.e., he could make a baseball almost massless, then throw it incredibly slow, like Bugs Bunny did that one time. I think more study is warranted.

"Watch me paste this pathetic palooka with a powerful paralyzing perfect pachydermus percussion pitch. "

Mark