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Movies that defy physics

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Watch the clip. Spider-Man is able to punch so hard that his attacker flies across the room. How is this defying Newton’s Laws? Give information on which laws are defied and what you would expect to happen (even if Spider-Man is a superhero!)

Vin Diesel starts an avalanche to outrun his attackers as he races down the mountain. During the whole scene he manages to stay around 10 meters ahead of the avalanche before leaping with his board into the air and grabbing a power station antenna, about 5 meters in the air, allowing the avalanche to continue past him – easy!

Could that work?

  1. What is the fastest snowboarding time recorded? (m/s)

  2. How fast does a powder avalanche move? (m/s)

  3. How much faster is the powder avalanche speed than the snowboarding speed? (m/s)

  4. If Vin Diesel is 10 meters ahead of the avalanche, how long until it catches up with him? Use equation v=d/t

  5. How far would he make it down the mountain before he is caught by the avalanche? Use equation v=d/t

A bomb has been planted on a city bus. Once the bomb is armed (when the speed first exceeds 50 miles/hour) it will not detonate unless the bus drops below 50 miles per hour. Can they save everyone on the bus by leaping over the 50-foot chasm? Watch the clip and write down what you think is wrong with this clip. Do you think they could make that jump?

  1. How did the bus take off at an angle?

  2. Look at the information below to understand the basics of a parabola. Do you think the bus would be at the same height as the other side of the highway? Why?

Projectile motion creates a parabola shape - a combination of:

* Vertical motion with constant acceleration

* Horizontal motion with constant velocity

Knowing that in reality, the bus would take off horizontally (there is no ramp to move it upwards), and assuming the gap is 15 meters (50 ft) and the bus is going at 31 m/s (70 miles/hour), how long will it take the bus to jump the gap? (use equation s=d/t)?

  1. What height will the bus be when it reaches the other side? Use equation Δy=Vit +1/2 ayt2 (we know this equation already as d=vit +1/2 at2 – this time looking at y axis for the change in height).

  1. Look up the height of a blue transit bus. Which part of Sandra’s body will be at the height of the other side of the highway?

Watch the clip. Spider-Man realizes he is able to climb buildings because of the tiny hairs upon his fingers – how strong must these hairs be?

At 0.21 s in the clip we see approximately 300 hairs on each finger – a total of 3000 hairs. At minimum these 3000 hairs must be able to hold Spider-Man’s body weight in order to hang on the walls. To climb the wall, the “hair force” must be greater than Spider-Man’s body weight force to allow him to accelerate upwards.

If Fhairs- mg =0 and assuming Spider-Man’s mass is 75kg,

  1. What is the force acting on EACH hair?

  2. What is the mass acting on EACH hair?

At 2.31, the Green Goblin punches Spider-Man so hard that he flies backwards. If we surmise that the velocity of Spider-Man changes from 0 to 17 m/s and that the punch impact time is 0.1 s.

  1. What is Spider-Man’s acceleration?

  2. What force is the punch? Use equation a=Δv/t and F=ma

  3. If we assume that Spider-Man and the Green Goblin are around the same size, and knowing Newton’s 3rd Law, what do you think SHOULD have happened to the Green Goblin when he hit Spider-Man?

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