Scientific American has looked into the feasibility of becoming Batman with E. Paul Zehr, Associate Professor and MFSHR biomedical research scholar at the University Of Victoria. For a ‘real’ scientist, professor Zehr (who lists JRR Tolkien, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Frank Herbert amongst his favourite authors) is a bit of a geek, we’re happy to say, and has gone quite exhaustively into the practical problems of a billionaire playboy maintaining a double-life as a hi-tech crime-fighting crusader.
Here are some of the bat-requisites that emerge from the interview:
10: A state of all round – but non-specific – physical fitness… Zehr says “To be Batman properly, what you really need to do is be exceptionally good at many different things.”, and dismisses the comics’ portrayal of the caped crusader as superlative in many separate physical skills, such as being the fastest or strongest.
9: A good book. A good long book… Zehr also dismisses some of the comic origin stories that portray Bruce Wayne’s transition to Batman happening in as little as five years. “In terms of the physical skills to be able to defend himself against all these opponents all the time, I would benchmark that at 10 to 12 years.” Admitting that Batman Begins presented the gruelling training in its most credible form to date, Zehr contends nonetheless that the training period may extend to 18 years if you’re determined not to generate any collateral damage: “To be that good, to not actually lethally injure anyone, requires an extremely high level of skill…”.
8: A Good tailor… Estimating a ‘day one’ Bruce Wayne to be six-foot-two and 185 pounds with a below-average body-fat ratio of 20% and a body mass index of 26%, our hero is set to undergo some impressive physiological changes as he trains his way to scum-busting Dark Knight. After about 15 years of training, ‘Batman-era’ Wayne is likely to weigh 210 pounds with 10% body fat and an extra 40 pounds of muscle, and will have far greater bone density.
7: Fast reactions… This gruelling, decades-long regimen of training will yield the reaction-times necessary to punch a goon’s lights out without even turning round: ”There is evidence that experts in something like football or hockey have an improved ability to perceive movement in time,” says Zehr. “It’s almost like their nervous systems become more efficient.”
6: A hot milky drink… The professor declares that Wayne’s double-life would take a tremendous toll on his circadian rhythm and ability to function: “He’s going to be really tired, actually, unless he can shift himself over to just being up at night.” Trying to grab daytime power-naps after a hard night laying into the Joker isn’t quite going to be adequate, wreaking havoc with the playboy’s quality and duration of sleep.
5: A break! Zehr criticises the way the Batman movies and comics show the Dark Knight getting a superlative pummelling and then trundling back out for more the following night. “Most of the time, in the comics and in the movies, even when he wins, he usually winds up taking a pretty good beating. There’s a real failure to show the cumulative effect of that.”
4: A retirement plan… The Batman that comes out of retirement in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight is an unrealistic proposition, apparently: “Somewhere around age 50 to 55, he should probably retire. His performance is going down. He’s always facing younger adversaries…it’s really hard to become Batman in the first place, and it’s hard to maintain it when you get there.”
3: A hanky and a shoulder to cry on… The repeated blows aimed at Batman’s head indicate the possibility of concussion and subsequent depression in the long term. “in reality, that would be a very likely outcome.” Says Zehr “These things would definitely add up.” Zehr concedes, however, that Batman mythology has never allowed that these KER-SPLATS on the Bat-noggin could send Batman batty. There’s always Alfred to pick up the pieces, anyway…
2: Fewer enemies… Taking on a whole squad of goons in single combat is a tough prospect even for an ultra-trained and hi-tech crimefighter: “If you just estimate how fast somebody could punch and kick, and how many times you could hit one person in a second, you wind up with numbers like five or six.” says Zehr, noting that it’s hard for more than that number of people to practically attack one individual, since they’ll end up doing more damage to each other.
1: A shedload of money… Zehr observes also that dividing the number of billionaires on the planet by the number of Olympic decathletes will give you the number of people on Earth who have any prospect of becoming the Dark Knight. There’s only one Batman, and no bloody wonder…
Read the full length Scientific American interview at:Dark Knight Shift: Why Batman Could Exist–But Not for Long