Movies 18 Jul 2006 05:17 am

Superman’s flapping cape – it’s just not right

Went to see the new Superman flick the other night. Bit of fun.

But I’ve been worried ever since about several aspects of the man-of-steel’s outfit. Leaving aside the whole question of underpants-on-the-outside (as my daughter would say: “It’s a look, Dad”), I’m troubled by the cape. Specifically:
* when Superman flies in the atmosphere, the cape flaps way too slowly
* when Superman flies in space, the cape flaps.

Cape flap in the atmosphere

Have you ever watched a flag waving on a windy day? Or a sail on a sailing boat?

At high wind speeds, untetherd cloth (like a flag or a cape) flaps really fast, and it makes a loud noise.

Why does Superman’s cape flap slowly and gently, even when he is clearly traveling at many hundreds of kilometres per hour?

Cape flap in space

“In space, no-one can hear you scream.”

There’s no air in space. Sound can’t travel (can’t even exist) without air, which is why the above quote is true. It’s why the spaceships in 2001: A Space Odyssey make no sound. And it’s one of the problems with the Star Wars series – but I seem to be getting off track.

Without air, what is it that makes Superman’s cape flap when he’s flying around in space?

What am I missing here? What’s the story with Superman’s cape?

2 Responses to “Superman’s flapping cape – it’s just not right”

  1. on 25 Jul 2006 at 10:19 (Sydney) 1.Zog said …

    It’s just – well – ‘super’.

  2. on 25 Jul 2006 at 10:24 (Sydney) 2.Richard said …

    Ahhh… that’ll be it. Thanks for setting me straight.

    (Note to self: never expect rational explanations from large, yellow monsters…)