There are few things cooler in the world of superheroes than watching Batman leap from a Gotham skyscraper and use his cape to glide safely to the ground, but though Christopher Nolan made it look badass in Batman Begins, a group of physics students think it would go a bit differently in real life. How different? Dead Batman different.
The claim that Batman wouldn't survive his nighttime glides comes from four student physicists at the University of Leicester, who recently published a paper entitled "Trajectory of a falling Batman" in the university's Journal of Physics Special Topics. Using mathematical simulations, they tested Batman's leaps and landings and determined that while the glide itself would probably work out just fine (and look damn cool), the landing would likely get the Dark Knight into serious trouble.
To simulate the glide, the students gave Batman's cape (which, if you'll remember from Batman Begins, turns into a rigid glider when an electrical charge is sent through it) a 15-foot wingspan, and assumed he was leaping from a 492-foot building. From that height and with a glider that size, assuming nothing was in his way, Batman would travel a distance of 1,148 feet.
That all sounds really cool, but then you have to start talking about velocity. During that glide, Batman would reach a top speed of 68 miles per hour before leveling out at around 50 miles per hour as he reached street level. Then he has to land. As the students note, if you don't think that's gonna seriously hurt, "consider impact with a car travelling at these speeds."
"Clearly gliding using a batcape is not a safe way to travel, unless a method to rapidly slow down is used such as a parachute," the students wrote.
Granted, Batman is an extraordinary man, but even if he did survive such a fall, he'd likely be unable to escape without major broken limbs. But he can take countermeasures to slow the fall, and in case a parachute doesn't seem cool enough, one of the students who wrote the paper has another option.
"If Batman wanted to survive the flight, he would definitely need a bigger cape," said David Marshall, a 22-year-old co-author of the paper. "Or if he preferred to keep his style intact he could opt for using active propulsion, such as jets to keep himself aloft."
To read the full two-page paper, formulas and all, click here. It all sounds very painful, but it likely won't stop Batman from his high-flying big-screen antics.