THE WAY SUPERMAN PICKS UP A BUILDING IS A PHYSICS TRAVESTY by Rhett Allain.
The author really breaks it down and shows why according to him, the physics of Superman's little move the building escapade is all wrong. Superman keeps the building remarkably level, I will say. Here's Rhett:
...with this mass, I can calculate the gravitational force pulling down by multiplying by the gravitational field (g = 9.8 N/kg). This means that Superman has to push up with a force of around 30 million newtons. Yes. That is a very large force, but hey—it's Superman. That's why he has "super" right there in his name.
Now that I have the force that Superman pushes up on the building, I can also calculate the pressure. The only thing I need is an estimate of the contact size of his hands. Let's just assume Superman has large hands. Maybe the contact area for each hand is a square 15 centimeters on a side. This would put the total contact area at 0.045 square meters. Using this and the force, I get a contact pressure of 670 megapascals (MPa). Yes, that is HUGE pressure.
It turns out that certain materials can only handle a pressure up to some maximum value. This value is called the compression strength. If you go past the compression strength pressure value, the material fails—it either breaks or falls apart or something else bad happens. Bricks have a compressive strength of just 80 MPa—they would be crushed by Superman. Granite has a compressive strength of 130 MPa. Even steel would probably fail.
|March 1939's Action Comics #10|
Feh. The wired author lacks imagination. The article is based in conventional Newtonian physics, completely ignoring quantum and relativistic effects that totally change the game. If superman can fly, why isn’t is possible superman can also control/affect the mass of the building, thus avoiding all of the conventional physics concerns the author raises. If you have super-ability to screw with stuff, who’s to say you can’t be messing with stuff at the quantum/relativistic level?
With a simplistic Newtonian view of the word, many basic electronic components (e.g., the tunnel diode) are every bit as bothersome as the fictional superman… yet they are real.
My thought was that he had to be super prescient to nail the perfect balance point and not get any teeter tottering or precession. But the author has a point, there are unsupported parts of the buildings that would collapse like a cupcake , no matter what force he applies to the bottom of the structure.