The Science of The Flash – Naomi Brown

Barry Allen, aka The Flash is a crime scene investigator who developed superhuman abilities allowing him to travel extraordinarily fast, dodge bullets and save the world. Whilst watching the first series, I wondered: ‘Could the flash actually exist?’ Of course, we would have to choose to ignore some of the physics-bending facts such as that nothing can move faster than the speed of light but just say for a minute someone did have these powers. How feasible would it be? What forces would this superhuman be subjected to? What other powers would he need to have?

Firstly, it is worth considering how The Flash got his powers in the first place. In the original comic book, his powers were gained when he inhaled the fumes of ‘hard water’. Well, it doesn’t sound like the most likely story! However, the reason in the current TV show is a little bit more plausible: Barry Allen is working in a forensic science lab with a particle accelerator when lightening strikes.

Next, we need to consider what other traits The Flash would need to travel superfast. Firstly, to travel very fast requires superstrength. This is because you need a large amount of force to create great acceleration (you might remember from physics class that force = mass x acceleration). Therefore, if the flash were to throw a punch at you, it would be fatal!

The Flash travels at such fast speed that he would need some other upgrades to his anatomy. For example, his eyesight would need to be highly superior in order to see, and avoid, any items coming towards him. He would also require an adapted brain in order to process sensory information quickly to allow him to react at the same speed as his movement.

The Flash has superhealing powers. It is essential that he have this ability as he can accelerate and decelerate almost instantaneously from up to 200 mph speeds. This would cause such a huge force that his bones and organs would be crushed every time.

Intriguingly, at superspeed The Flash would turn into a magnet! The friction created between the ground and his feet whilst running would cause a static charge to the extent that a magnetic field around his body would be created. This field would mean anything magnetic in the surrounding area would be attracted to him; can you imagine the destruction that would cause?

We also should consider the suit that the Flash wears: presumably spandex and/or latex. These materials would need to be very heat resistant, as the movement of the Flash’s limbs would generate lots of friction leading to blistering heat.

Maybe the moral to this story is to sit back and enjoy the entertainment provided by these superhero stories. I imagine any comic book hero that was scientifically accurate would be very boring to watch!

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