Batman V Superman – who would win?

by Rhys L. Griffiths

Batman vs Superman, who would win? In this blog I take a look at the powers of these superheroes, who I think would win, and how superhero technology and powers are being made a reality by scientists and engineers.

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice promotional image.

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice promotional image.

It’s finally time!

If you’re a geek, like myself, then you have been waiting for this for over two years. Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, has finally been released in cinemas and we get to find out who will come out victorious when the caped crusader takes on the last son of Krypton.  Now on first glance it may seem like a no-brainer who our champion will be.

Superman has the ability to fly, he has super strength, x-ray vision, invulnerability, super speed, heat vision, freeze breath and super senses. As Lex Luthor described him, he is a “living God on Earth”. Superman gets his powers from Earth’s yellow Sun, basically making him a large solar powered battery. Meaning when he is here on Earth he has the potential to wipe out all of humanity.

Batman is very cynical and as he puts it, ‘he’s had a bad experience with freaks dressed like clowns’, so even though we know Superman is really a good guy, The Dark Knight isn’t convinced and wants to take him down. But Batman wasn’t born with any genealogical advantage, he doesn’t have mutated cells which makes him a capable crime fighter, he just uses his brain.

Batman’s ability stems from science and engineering and with his family fortune he is able to bankroll some of the most advanced pieces of tech the world has ever seen.

Don’t write off Batman, I think he stands a good chance against the Man of Steel and I will explain why, starting with a little look back at comic book history:

Batman made his debut in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Cover art by Bob Kane.

Batman made his debut in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Cover art by Bob Kane.

1939

Batman made his first appearance in Detective Comics back in 1939 and he was more of a super sleuth then a hero, using his wits and lock picks to help solve crimes. However as he moved into the 1940s his gadgetry became more advanced when he started using infrared goggles that enabled him to see in the dark.  Infrared light isn’t visible to the naked eye but everything above absolute zero temperature gives off infrared radiation in the form of heat. So Batman would be able to use this technology, not just to see in the dark, but to also target people as they would stand out against the colder background.  Night vision goggles were first developed by the US in the early 40s to assist with the war efforts, however German armies were using a form of night vision even earlier, which they used as a short range search light on board their Panther Tanks.

1950s

As Batman moved into the 1950s he seemed to shift slightly into science fiction. This was to keep up with the trends of the times and would often involve him firing ray guns at enemies or even flying into outer space. In Batman issue 109, he used a heat-ray to detonate explosives underwater, three years before optical lasers were invented.  This may seem a little far-fetched but the military have been working on this for quite some time. They have built a non-lethal weapon called the Active Denial System, which directs high frequency microwaves over 550 yards.  It’s about as hot as a lightbulb and is able to neutralise people without causing them serious harm.  Similar to a microwave it excites the water and fat molecules in the skin and instantly heats them. This system was launched in 2010 during the war in Afghanistan but was never used.  The military have developed other equipment that uses microwaves in a way that can destroy electrical equipment or even disrupt missiles guiding systems when launched at planes.

Is Batman ready to take on Superman on land and in the air?

Batman has always managed to stay one step ahead of his mortal enemies, but he’s never taken on anyone quite like Superman. For starters, Superman has the ability to fly. Lex Luthor once theorised that this was because he must have come from a gigantic planet with enormous gravity, so his race had to develop natural anti-gravity organs in order to function. On Earth this would mean he would be able to control his own gravimetric field allowing him to fly.

Batman doesn’t have the ability to fly, but he does fall with style. His cape is made of ‘memory cloth’ which, when charged, has the ability to realign the molecules and become rigid, letting him use it to glide. Material, just like this, is actually in the works. One method of creating this effect is using magnetorheological fluid. This is usually a type of oil, which contains lots of little particles that when subjected to a magnetic field, becomes rigid thus increasing its viscosity. So incorporating this into a kind of fabric could potentially turn Batman’s cape into a reality. However there are people who glide similarly to Batman without the use of magnetorheological fluid.

Gliding using a wingsuit. Image taken from Howstuffworks.com Skydiver image gallery.

Gliding using a wingsuit. Image taken from Howstuffworks.com Skydiver image gallery.

They use wing suits. Wing suits adds surface area to the body and enables a significant increase in lift. There are slits on the arms which allows the suit to fill up with air, which permits them to glide. By manipulating their body as they free fall through the air they are able to gain great distances as they plummet towards the ground. Superman may be able to fly naturally, but Batman’s method takes a lot more skill to master giving him the wits to match Superman on the ground as well as the air.

Super Suits

Superman wears a blue and red suit that his adoptive mother made for him out of fabrics he was wrapped in as a baby.  Batman however, put a lot of thought into his ensemble, making him unbeatable. In the original comics his costume was made of cloth, but this became problematic as it was constantly being torn. So he developed his suit, not only to stop it tearing, but to also stop bullets.

Molecular structure of Kevlar: bold represents a monomer unit, dashed lines indicate hydrogen bonds.

Molecular structure of Kevlar: bold represents a monomer unit, dashed lines indicate hydrogen bonds.

Kevlar is a para-aramid synthetic fibre that’s 5 times stronger then steel making it perfect for Batman. It’s able to be woven into a material and when worn, the fibres are able to stretch meaning it’s capable of stopping both bullets and knives.  Although in the recent films, we notice he hasn’t got as much dexterity when it comes to hand to hand combat. In fact, he hasn’t got enough dexterity to cross a busy road. The kevlar made his neck increasingly stiff making it hard for him to react quickly when being attacked. Batman is constantly upgrading (Superman’s version of a suit upgrade is wearing his pants on the inside), so if he has a problem then he will invent the solution, so his suit became Kevlar plates placed on top of titanium dipped tri-weaved fibres. Just as strong but it gives him more flexibility. This design parallels ceramic armour. Ceramic armour is 70% lighter then Kevlar and uses boron carbide, a black crystalline powder, that when heated can be turned into ceramic plating that’s as strong as diamonds. The military use ceramic plates on tanks and even inserts them into soft ballistic vests making them wearable, protecting their soldiers from enemy fire.

Speaking of protection from fire, Batman’s suit is coated with Nomex, which is a flame resistant material. When exposed to intense heat, the fibres carbonise and thicken, creating a barrier between the skin and the fire. The material doesn’t melt and it doesn’t burn which makes it perfect for firefighters to use. He can withstand knives, bullets and even fire, but how can he stand up to the man of steel? Well in images from Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, we see that Batman has once again upgraded his suit. It now looks like a hefty suit of armour designed to withstand the blows of super strong extra-terrestrials. It has a few other nifty features as well, which I won’t spoil for those of you who haven’t seen the film, but needless to say that Master Wayne has used his bat brain once again to solve the problem.

Super Gadgets

Despite the impressive nature of Batman’s suit, I would say the most essential item of clothing he wears is his utility belt.  It is packed with everything a vigilante needs. Thermite bombs to get through doors, a re-breather to breathe under water and the most famous of all his gadgets, the Batarang.

Image from Batman: The Movie (196). Adam West's Batman using Shark Repellent Bat Spray

Image from Batman: The Movie (1966). Adam West’s Batman using Shark Repellent Bat Spray

In Batman: The movie (1966), Adam West’s Batman even uses shark repellent bat spray to get rid of a shark that’s munching on his leg as he dangles from a helicopter. This may sound ludicrous but shark repellent spray does exist and it was specially designed to protect sailors who got stranded in open water. When it was being developed, scientists found that the thing to drive away a shark is the odour of a dead shark. Dissecting what it is exactly that sends them swimming, it was found that certain copper compounds, such as copper sulphate and copper acetate, in combination with other ingredients could replicate the smell of dead shark. It’s actually purchasable online at a very reasonable price, so be like Batman, always prepared, and carry shark repellent in your belt just in case of a freak shark attack.

Two of the founding members of Atlas Devices demonstrating their Atlas Powered Ascender (APA)

Two of the founding members of Atlas Devices demonstrating their Atlas Powered Ascender (APA)

Another tool which can be helpful in the fight against the Man of Steel is Batman’s grappling gun. He uses an air gun to shoot a grappling hook to the top of tall buildings, but then is pulled up at a fairly quick speed, allowing him to give chase when Superman takes to the sky. In order to lift the Dark Knight quickly, the grabbling gun would need a powerful motorised mechanism. A standard lightbulb uses roughly 60 watts, this motor would need at least 5000 watts to work but it is doable. Atlas Devices is a global provider of innovative solutions for security and defence.  They have the capability to use such grabbling motors for rescue and extraction missions. They have been specially designed so they can lift two people at a fast pace increasing their chances of success during rescue missions.

So… who would win?

Superman is unhappy with the citizens of Gotham living in fear while some vigilantly roams the streets thinking he is above the law. Superman has the potential to cause mass extinction if he wants but he chooses to help the people of Earth, which isn’t always welcomed. Thanks to his strong moral upbringing by Jonathan and Martha Kent, Superman uses his abilities and his moral compass to do nothing but help, but Batman isn’t so sure.  Superman may have natural advantages but using intellect, Batman has made himself an opposable foe. Not only is he the master of mixed martial arts but his intelligence is unmatched. Always being ahead of the real world’s technical advances has been beneficial, not just for him, but for everyone. It has inspired many generations to become engineers and try to turn his bat tech into a reality. It’s impossible to grow up to become Superman, but anyone can grow up to become Batman. In the battle between brains and brawn, brains wins it for me every time and that’s why I’m siding with the Bat. But I’m sure they will work it out in the end and become super best friends!

Image taken from DC Comics

Image taken from DC Comics

For more Superhero science check out:

The Physics of Thor’s Hammer
Can Science make a Spider-man?
Can I run as fast as the Flash?
Could Ego the Living Planet really exist?


science made simple
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If you are a primary school in Wales and would like us to visit your school, then click here as you may be able to book the show for a reduced price.


 

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