Superheroes might be needed to save the world, but it turns out they aren't so heroic when it comes to the environment.
Stanford University geologist Miles Traer along with two colleagues have put together a scientific poster presentation calculating the carbon footprint for nine comic book heroes and the results might not be quite what anyone expected. According to The Washington Post Traer and his colleagues looked at the carbon footprints of DC's Barbara Gordon/Oracle, Batman, Superman, The Flash, Swamp Thing, and Firebird as well as Marvel's Iron Man, Jessica Jones, and Spider-Man and determined that none of them are particularly good for the environment.
The worst offender was Oracle. According to Traer's research, even if the computer whiz was using clean energy sources -- such as nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind, and geothermal -- to power her servers they would still release 1.3 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year. That's hundreds of times the rate of the average person. But what about a hero that doesn't rely on technology to save the day? It turns out that The Flash wasn't much better. To have the energy needed to run with the power of the Speed Force, the speedster would have to consume roughly a 12-foot tall hamburger every week -- which would take 90 million of pounds of carbon dioxide each year to produce. Even Batman isn't a hero to the environment.
"Plus Batman drives around a car that literally shoots fire out the back," Traer says. "That has to be terrible for the environment."
The presentation is one in a series called Science and "Sci-Fi: Using Real Science to Explore Fictional Words" that looks at issues in pop culture and entertainment as a way of opening the conversation about real-world scientific issues. In addition to the carbon footprints of super heroes, there are poster presentations about the inaccuracies in Jurassic Park as well as the physics of a Game of Thrones-style wall of ice, and while some of the data can be a bit of a bummer -- in addition to the not-so-ecofriendly super heroes, it turns out that wall of ice doesn't quite follow the laws of physics -- it's not all bad news. Some heroes are good for mankind as well as planet Earth. Superman, with his sun-derived powers, is the poster hero for solar energy.