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I can understand Super-beings' great strength and some of their other powers, but flying is hard to justify.

I want to consider only superheroes that can actually fly rather than merely jump tall buildings.

My theory is that their body hair can be controlled like so many cilia on a microorganism. There are tiny muscles in the skin of ordinary humans that raise the hairs when we are cold (goose bumps). In superheroes these could be controlled independently to create a wave motion.

This could explain why they have to wear close-fitting spandex - it allows the hairs to poke through. Alternatively they could be nearly nude and the 'spandex' merely tattooed on.

Questions

(1) If all the hairs on a human-like body beat in a wave motion, what characteristics would those hairs have to have to enable flight? Assume that they can beat with the fine control of a fly's wings. At a pinch, they could even have the same shape.

Please assume that the muscles that power these hairs have super strength and speed and that the hairs are made of super strong material.

You may wish to take the following hair characteristics into account:

  • length

  • flexibility

  • aerofoil section

  • thickness

  • frequency of beating

  • etc.

(2) If we designed the perfect hairs and muscles with roughly the same bodily distribution as human hairs, would the superhero be able to take off?


EDIT

I forgot to mention that the hairs are invisible.

Research

Shall we try bumblebees? Each can lift about 252 millionths of a pound, about 10 times as much as a housefly. Total requirement: 437,240 bees. https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/columns/straight-dope/article/13044234/straight-dope-how-many-houseflies-would-you-need-to-lift

The above article gives some useful figures for being lifted by insects. Remember however that we don't need the insects' bodies because the muscles are part of the superhero's body and the superhero has some huge, unknown energy source. Further the hairs/wings are made of super materials so we are not limited to what a fly can do in terms of strength/endurance.

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    $\begingroup$ I cannot even begin to understand what is the supposed mechanism for producing lift. A diagram showing the proposed lifting flow would be most helpful, as would an explanation of how the body hairs of a human could possibly have an effect on air flow extending beyond the immediate vicinity of the skin. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 11 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ Not enough research for a real answer but I don't think it would work that way. The hairs would have to be so long that they would likely add more weight than they can lift. Also, once they get that long, they are just a floppy mess since the hair is dead except for the part very near the root. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Jan 11 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP You might be able to do it like a bumblebee. I heard this a couple years ago, but they vibrate their wings extremely fast and this creates a cushion of air which they can then use to fly. Maybe thats how these super humans work. Giant Hairy vibrators. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Jan 11 at 4:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Shadowzee: Bumblebees are very much smaller than humans. What works for a very small object won't work for a large object. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 11 at 4:43
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK, we also happen to emit gases from time to time... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jan 11 at 13:49
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I don`t think you can fly like that, remember that birds wings have to change form to work (they are mobile). I think that the super hero would be standing still or simply be able to jump from time to time using the inertia of his body while moving the hair on his body in a single direction, very powerfully (maybe this would hurt)

I recommend using a telekinetic field, magnetic field, anti gravitational powers or organs and maybe you know just giant wings, but they have to be like 7 times the length of the hero`s body so maybe make them invisible also.

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  • $\begingroup$ This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Jan 11 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ The title said a proposed method to fly so I think I can propose another one too. Maybe he likes this one better $\endgroup$ – Edward Constantin Jan 11 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ The question was "Is this proposed method of flight plausible?" While frame challenges (answers that challenge the OP's original idea) are allowed on reality-check questions, they require a logical, fleshed-out, explanation for why the original method being reality-checked is implausible or impossible, before proposing a different method. Additionally, this answer provides no scientific or logical back-up for why this alternate idea would be more plausible than the original idea. Given that this question has the science-based tag, "I saw it in a comic book" is not good enough. $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Jan 11 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, you are right I shall edit it then. Brb! $\endgroup$ – Edward Constantin Jan 11 at 15:28
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Usually super heros tend to also carry things that would usually be too unstable, e.g. superman carrying a whole building using only one hand. It should actually break apart if held using only one tiny surface like his hand. Thus I assume it must be some telekinesis, not hairs and muscles.

On the other hand: if you want it to be hairs, split them up to give more air resistance, then combine their surfaces using relatively stiff shafts. Still searching for some innovative name. Hm ... maybe (sounds strange, I know) "wings"?

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  • $\begingroup$ Well yes. But you are describing feathers, not wings. - Good point about carrying things, but can one telekinese oneself? $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Jan 11 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ If you can't telekinese yourself, just telekinese the whole world... $\endgroup$ – T-Me Jan 11 at 17:37
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Maybe with the help of nano technology one such super character could fly using bodily hairs if enough atmosphere was removed and/or partial void was created around him by vibrating nano robots. Reduced atmospheric friction/partial weightlessness would be greatly beneficial to this type of flight method as in bumblebee flight...you would still need atmosphere to generate movement, pushing against void with hairs does not do much... just a tought.

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  • $\begingroup$ So... the nanites act like jet engines, pulling the air from the direction of flight and moving it around to behind, creating a partial vacuum in the direction of flight? What does the vibration do? $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 12 at 4:49

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