The Ergosphere
Friday, May 25, 2018
 

When physics is on the line, face-palm edition

Via a correspondent who asked to remain anonymous and unquoted, I received some screenshots of panels from a brand-new comic called Alt*Hero.  Story authorship is "Vox Day", the pen-name of one Theodore Beale.  He claims to have a 150-ish IQ and refers to Aristotle regularly.

I'm passingly familiar with this guy; he comes up with clever expressions.  He used to get held up as an example of scientific pig-ignorance on scienceblogs, back when I read that site.  So what does he write into his comic?
A 90-kilogram object with an acceleration of 3,825 kilometers per hour strikes with the force of 10 tons
In short, physics bullshit.  It's bullshit from the units (acceleration is in units of distance/time²) through to the figures.  Per the story, the "Redshift" character can hit supersonic speeds from a standing start in just a few meters.  Figuring constant acceleration from 0 to 1000 m/s in 10 meters, the force required isn't "10 tons", it's 4.5 meganewtons (the weight of about 460 metric tons).  That's almost 2 orders of magnitude greater.  Impact into an immobile object would be orders of magnitude more.

Suppose you launched 90 kg to 1000 m/sec from a building.  A 460-ton shock would probably cave floors in and might even knock the building down.  That's physics.  More to the point, a skydiver in free-fall in the arrowhead configuration reaches terminal velocity at about 200 MPH.  There's no way a runner, however strong, could reach > 1 km/sec speeds by pushing against the ground (and at Mach 3 he'd broil himself from the air heated by his own shock front).  Another character flies, without using wings or any other aerodynamic method.  It is obvious that Physics As We Know It is not operating here (it's a comic book, Pure Fucking Magic is not just allowed but expected).

This begs the question:  why the pseudo-physics bullshit?  Does he not know any better?

Vox Day has long harped about scientific fraud and error, and per my correspondent even made up several new words purporting to help describe science accurately.  Ironically, this supposedly 150-IQ guy can't even hack first-semester physics.  (Does this extend to things like chemistry and biology?  Almost certainly the latter.)  He has some massive gaps in his abilities and understanding—worse, in subjects that people of much lesser IQ scores have mastered without undue difficulty.  That has to sting.  It looks like his enmity towards science and its practitioners comes down, not to principled differences, but a large dose of envy.  Face-palm time.

(As for the comic itself, it looks fun.  I may buy it, and that will make it one out of perhaps 5 I ever spent money on.  But seriously, if diversity box-checking in fiction is a turn-off, so's cringeworthy stuff like this.  Best just not to go there.)

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