miscellany

26 june 2018


SO HOW DID WE GET TO HERE ?

LIKE

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WISH I’D WRITTEN THESE

CONTACT

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WRITTEN

THESE

BUT

SERIOUSLY -

ARTICLES

etc.

           All original writing

           2014, 2015, 2016, 2017,            2018        Ian McLauchlin

AND THESE

VARIOUS THOUGHTS - Superman


29 Oct 17

Last night I re-watched the BBC Proms programme which featured the music of John Williams. You know, Star Wars, Jaws, ET, Harry Potter themes etc.

During the theme music for Superman, my mind started to drift . . . .  as it does. Supposing he mistakenly took flight and forgot to go to the loo first - a circumstance dear to my heart, and other places. If he has to go mid-flight, is there a secret opening in his costume? Would he save the sample and bring it back down to earth as all good eco-warriers do, or would he just jettison it? And  if the latter, what would be its trajectory? (You can't imagine where my mind wanders to, most of the time.)

So, imagine Superman flying at space-station height, with one arm outstretched and one knee bent, which seems to be the only way he can fly.

In earth's atmosphere the outstretched arm would reduce atmospheric drag a bit but the knee would increase it. But if he was flying at the height (about 400km say) and speed of the space station  drag would be minimal. What happens next depends on how fast and in what direction he's flying. Let's assume he's in level flight, that acceleration due to gravity, g, is 9.8 metres per second squared, and that the space station orbits at about 400km up and about 28000km per hour. g will reduce slightly with height but for simplicity let's assume it's fixed in this circumstance. You can then calculate the trajectory of the released excrement which will initially be travelling at the same speed, height and direction as Superman! He's flying from left to right below.

            

Axes are in km. If he's travelling at earth orbiting speed, the jettisoned package loses height hardly at all after travelling 7000km down range. Superman's speed needs to fall to very much less than orbiting speed for a significant loss of orbiting height. He himself will lose height then of course. The lower the orbiting height, the greater the frictional drag. He'd then need to straighten his leg to reduce the chance of it and adjacent parts burning up.

The jettisoned package would burn up long before it reached the earth's surface of course, so he'd be wasting his time bringing it back to earth. But it'd make him feel good and noble. But he feels that all the time anyway. Afterwards, his first priority, obviously, is to save retired scientists unable to release themselves from the past and bring them kicking and screaming back to the present. Then, and only then, can he furtively close the opening, pull his conventional suit over his skin-tight uniform and resume his career as a timid journalist.

See what you made me do John Williams and the BBC Proms?


As my daughter keeps telling me, I should get out more. Maybe onwards and upwards, with arm outstretched and knee bent . . .