In this blog I have finally decided to dwell on the much ignored physics of movies, specifically superhero movies. And while many of these movies ignore laws of physics for good reasons (some movies would be unbelievably boring if they did),it is still worth it to knit pick the physics of a great superhero. I am going to focus on the movie X-Men: Days of Future Past and I will focus on a certain scene with a certainly remarkable character: Quicksilver. This hero is a super speedster that can run up to speeds well over the speed of sound, and this remarkable scene implies Quicksilver to the most powerful superhero. Here's the physics on why.
In the scene, everything slows down dramatically, while Quicksilver moves at a normal speed, and using his frame of reference, I calculated just how fast he was going. In the scene I timed a watched a bullet fired by a revolver to travel approximately 1 cm in 3 seconds with respect to Quicksilver's frame of reference. Assuming the revolver to be an average pistol, we can say that it's speed was around 400 mph, or 178.8 m/s with respect to real time. Now if the bullets travel about 0.0033 m/s in Quicksilver's frame of reference and they were really traveling 178.8 m/s, this means that Quicksilver's frame of reference is 53,640 times slower than the average person's. Furthermore, if we say that the fastest Quicksilver traveled in the video was about 15 m/s, his actual speed was 804,600 m/s (2366 times the speed of sound or Mach 2366)! Now lets talk about the implied powers with this speed. First off, Quicksilver's legs are incredibly strong, because legs apply the force to the ground that accelerate the body. If he accelerates to top speed at a .01 of a second, his acceleration is 80,460,00 m/s/s, meaning a force applied of of at least 80 million Newton's. Secondly, any touch from Quicksilver could be fatal. If he touches and moves a person's head even 1cm, the change in momentum on that time interval (say .001s and a mass of 5kg) would be 50 m/s(kg), and because impulse is the change in momentum, the force applied would be 50,000 N! That is a huge force, a concussion to the head to say the least; now just imagine if he punched a person at top speed! Lastly, the fact that Quicksilver's mind can perceive and comprehend the world 53,640 times as fast as we can shows just how powerful his mind has to be. Not only is a physical specimen, but we can imply he's intellectual superior by this fact.
Now we know he is powerful, but now it's time for me to rant about why just about all of this is impossible. First off, lets talk about that fun thing called friction. Because Quicksilver accelerates so quickly, there would be a crazy amount of frictional force applied to his feet. At the speeds he is going, his shoes should probably wear off and burn to fire, but that what not be too convenient for our hero. There is also friction in the air called drag force. This force becomes greater at higher speeds, and if you want proof for that, stick your hand out the window of a car when going 10 mph vs 100 mph . One can imagine the air resistance Quicksilver experiences when accelerating and decelerating to these top speeds of 800,000 m/s. His clothes would probably blow right off, and luckily the directors ignored that too. Thirdly, there is a point in the scene when Quicksilver throws a plate, and in mid air it slows down to the speeds of all the other objects (as if it was thrown at Quicksilver's frame of reference, but traveled at real time). Any Physics student knows that by Newton's 1st law a body in motion tends to stay in motion, not decelerate at 80 million m/s/s! Lastly, the entire scene, Quicksilver listen's to Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle" on a Sony Walkman, and even if we ignore all the sonic booms Quicksilver creates, one would have to understand that the song would have to be playing 53,640 times as fast as normal. If we assume the average angular speed of the tape on a Walkman to be 33.3 RPM, it would have to be traveling at about 2 million RPM for Quicksilver to listen, and maybe the 1970's gadget can handle that speed, but I wouldn't count on it.
Anyway, if you have made it this far in reading my blog, thank you and congratulation, you made it through a movie rant! Now this scene is one of my all-time favorites, so click below and enjoy