What if Superman Punched You?

atkins-bookshelf-triviaThanks to the passionate scientists at ASAP Science.com, a YouTube channel, science just got a lot more interesting. The YouTube channel was founded by Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, two young biologists who graduated from the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada). The goal of ASAP Science is to present brief (3-minutes) videos about intriguing scientific questions (eg, “What Causes a Hangover?” “The Science of Orgasms” “Amazing Facts to Blow Your Mind”) that are informative as well as entertaining — makes you wonder: where were these guys when we were in high school? Clearly, the videos have found an audience, attracting more than 10 million curious viewers in less than one year. In an interview with the Daily Dot (Ontario), Moffit explained their mission: “We’re interested in inspiring people who maybe don’t know a lot about science and think of it as this hard subject in school. Hopefully, they’ll realize that [science] can be… cool; that they can follow that field or at least spend more time with it.”

And the proof is in the pudding — Exhibit A is ASAP Science contributor Jake Allison’s fascinating presentation of “What if Superman Punched You” which is like a Kahn Academy tutorial on steroids — the factoids come at you fast and furious — even veteran reporter Lois Lane would have trouble keeping up with her notes. So what would happen if Superman punched you?

Superman’s powers are legendary (can leap tall buildings in a single bound, can power the sun, lift 200 quintillion tons, punch dimensions apart) there is however one universal law of physics that he cannot break — to travel at or faster than the speed of light. Even though in the comics he can travel at the speed of light (299,792,458 m/s), for this scientific lesson, Superman’s speed will be set at 1% below the speed of light (slowing him down to 296,794,533 m/s). If Superman’s fist has a mass of 300 grams, traveling at 99% of the speed of sound, his punch would have the total energy if 190 quadrillion (that’s 15 zeroes) joules, equivalent to 45 megatons of TNT — 2,800 more powerful than the 9,000 pound nuclear bomb (“Little Boy”) that was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The energy expended by that flying fist would burn 45 trillion calories, equivalent to about 82 billion Big Macs.

So what happens when Superman releases this punch? As this powerful bomb, condensed into the frightening mass of a fist, flies toward your face, it releases enormous heat — 80 million kelvin (5 times hotter than the core of the sun). The fist will take 3.4 nanoseconds to reach your face. The fist is traveling so fast and with such tremendous energy that it freezes time, suspending all particles in the air, and creates nuclear fusion — generating gamma rays, a giant fireball, blast waves (destroying nearby building and uproots trees), and an explosion that would create a crater about 1 km in diameter and 221 meters deep. As Jake gushes, “Superman wouldn’t just knock the wind out of you — he would knock the atoms out of you!” Superman’s fist, like a particle beam, with the power of 7 billion electron volts would essentially liquify your body at the atomic level  — transforming them instantly into fundamental particles and quark-gluon plasma (similar to the elements created right after the Big Bang that occurred some 14 billion years ago). All this energy, would in turn, create new particles and anti-particles that would form into something entirely new — bringing an entirely new meaning to reincarnation.

To summarize — if this hasn’t been made abundantly clear — it would be best if you just didn’t piss off the man of steel. Class dismissed.

View the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-fL8zopddI

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For further reading: www.dailydot.com/entertainment/asapscience-youtube-mitchell-moffit-interview/