Feeds:
Posts

## Niagara Falls is over two miles high!

Let’s watch a clip from the movie Superman II, which I saw in the theater in 1980:

Great acting, right?

From the time (Δt) that the kid is in the air, we can determine how high Niagara Falls (ostensibly) is.  I get Δt = 27 s, so the height of Niagara Falls is given by

H = ½ a Δt2 = ½ (9.8) 272 = 3572 m.

Wow!  That’s big…more than 3.5 km.  That’s over two miles high!

(It’s actually higher than this, if we notice that Superman didn’t even catch the kid at the very bottom.)

In point of fact Niagara Falls is 51 m high.  Only half a football field.  In the real world, it would take the kid (neglecting air resistance) all of 3.2 seconds to hit the rocks below.  Superman has no time to change his costume; Lois has no time to scream for help.  3.2 seconds, then splat.

Let’s ponder the magnitude of the error the filmmakers made here.

MOVIE: 3572 m

REALITY: 51 m

This is a 7000% error.  That has to be some sort of record.

To put it into perspective, it would be like listing Shaquille O’Neal’s height as 165 yards, instead of 7’1″.  This is fun!  In the world of Superman II, Oslo has a population of 43 million, Gone With the Wind has a running time of almost 12 days, the moon is almost as massive as the Earth, and the average cat weighs 630 lbs.

The movie supposedly grossed \$190,000,000.  We now know, however, that (given the 7000% inflation trend in Superman II) the move only grossed \$2,700,000.

This makes Superman II the greatest flop of all time.  For some reason, though, when I saw it around my 12th birthday, I liked it.  Maybe that’s because it was really my 840th birthday?

### 5 Responses

1. Dear Matt, quick question about the MWI.
When an electron’s wave function is decohered by a measuring apparatus, can the different parts of its wave function that are decohered interact with each other? Since its wave function never actually collapses?

2. on February 17, 2017 at 11:09 PM | Reply Daniel He hetianding

It’s funny, how all falling scenes in movies feel like they were on the moon or something even smaller.

3. Yes, but the boy would reach terminal velocity well before the bottom of a 3,572 meter fall and then stop accelerating. Back to the blackboard!

• Sure. But you can’t argue that he’d fall for 27 seconds. 4 or 5, maybe.

• Yes, agreed. One could, if one had the time and the inclination, estimate it numerically. There’s sufficient video to note the boy’s position and estimate the drag coefficient. And, while I have the inclination, I don’t have the time.