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Why Batman’s Grappling Hook is Actually a Deadly Weapon

Bruce Wayne could easily be the Tony Stark (pre-Iron Man) of the DC universe. He has both the intelligence and capital to make weapons capable of leveling Gotham—or at least obliterating bad guys. But he doesn’t. Batman has one rule: no killing. Unfortunately for the Dark Knight, one of his standard ways of saving people across comics, movies, video games, and TV shows is pretty dang deadly.

In my latest Because Science, I’m taking a look at the physics of free fall. What would really happen if you fell off a building and the Bat tried to save you? Well, thanks to the acceleration due to Earth’s gravity, if you’re quickly stopped after falling for more than 3-4 seconds, you’ll pull some huge forces and Gs — enough to kill you. (Or at least rip an arm or a leg clean off.) Just ask Spider-Man about Gwen Stacy…sorry.

Wayne could easily mitigate these accidental rule breaks with some technical tweaks. In 2008’s The Dark Knight, it looks like the Joker slows down gradually after being caught by Batman’s grappling hook. By increasing the time it takes for an object to stop, you decrease the forces involved. It’s why an egg will crack falling onto the pavement but not onto a pile of feathers. Again, Gwen Stacy. Sorry.

Check out my last video on how Superman’s heat vision works, subscribe to this playlist to stay current with the show, buy a Because Science shirt (you know why), and follow me on Twitter to give me a suggestion for the next episode!

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