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Why STREET FIGHTER’s “Sonic Boom” Makes Scientific Sense

Quick: yell the first thing you associate with the now 30-year-old Street Fighter franchise. If you didn’t yell “hadouken!” or “shoryuken!” you must have let bellow the character Guile’s famous “sonic boom!” The attack is generated from rapidly curving fists, and extends outwards as a wave of energy that damages enemies. It looks like any other impossible video game move, but given a few caveats, the game’s sonic boom is perfectly scientifically plausible.

In my latest Because Science, I’m breaking down the physics behind a sonic boom to see if Guile’s technique makes sense. We first need to know what a sonic boom is: Put simply, it’s what it sounds like when pressure waves can’t move out of the way of the thing creating those waves, and so they bunch up into a wave front of loud.

However, if you could move your fist at supersonic speed, just punching at some street fighter’s face wouldn’t do much. That’s because a sonic boom is only felt/heard under the so-called “boom carpet,” or the area where the boom energy eventually impacts. So punching straight, the boom carpet extending from the fist wouldn’t hit like you’d like. This is where Guile’s special technique comes in. But you’ll have to check out my latest video about to find out how it plays out. FIGHT!

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