Season 3 of DC Comic’s The Flash is currently underway on the small screen. The superhero can run fast faster than the speed of light (that’s 186,282.397 miles per second!) using a special power known as Speed Force. As humans don’t have superpowers (yet), we asked, what would happen to your body if you tried?
Going up against the Flash
The bottom line is that if any human ever tried to match The Flash for speed, it wouldn’t end well. Quite simply our body is not built for that sort of speed. Ten metres per second is the fastest you can travel when freefalling using only gravity and this is known as 1G. The human body can withstand 5G for two minutes until the sheer rate of acceleration makes us pass out. So, our body clearly can’t take the pace of light speed but what if we theoretically did travel at those sorts of speed?
Running at the speed of light
Even at half the speed of light, it is calculated that the average human would expend 237,000,000,000,000 calories! There is no way anyone could maintain their glucose levels to anywhere near this amount. Even worse, if you were to run this fast, the amount of air molecules you would be crashing into would cause an atomic explosion! We haven’t even mentioned how even the best types of running gear would be simply shredded away by these speeds and you could even create a vacuum and deprive yourself of oxygen.
To run as fast as The Flash, we could also need other superpowers. The body would need to repair the broken legs and mashed up organs that were affected when going at the high speeds plus we’d need superhuman reflexes in both our eyes and our brains to be able to make decisions at such a pace.
So how fast can we run?
Usain Bolt clocked a mightily impressive 44.64km/h at the 2009 Berlin World Championships. However, a 2010 study stated that our biological limit could be even greater. as much as 65km/h no less. Human limbs can only take so much force when pounding the ground during a sprint but when you change your gait, it becomes different. Treadmill tests showed that when hopping or running backwards, the force the body applies to the ground increases by 30 per cent. This means that our muscle fibres we use to run are capable of higher speeds, it’s just our running technique that slows us down. It’s very unlikely but it’s biologically possible.
Discover more amazing science in the latest issue of How It Works. It’s available from all good retailers, or you can order it online from the ImagineShop. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works, make sure you subscribe today!
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Could we travel faster than the speed of light?