Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Last Airbender

My friend wanted to me to see the last Airbender. M Knight Shamalan's movie based on the comic book/cartoon of the same name. It is fantasy and I'm not that much into fantasy or M. Knights movies too much. I am a little glad that I did not fork the eight euros for a ticket because I heard it was not so great. I think it won a number of Razzies for worst film, worst director, and worst special effects. In the clip the last Airbender bending water though. Shouldn't it be also called the last Thingbender. Maybe that doesn't not have such an appealing name. But bending water that is really cool (not cool enough to see the movie but cool). Water bending is a technique in the martial arts Shaolin and Tai Chi.

So I looked on my shelf and saw the book the Physics of Superheros. Great book made by a Professor James Kakalios of Physics at the University of Minnesota. Kakalios does not set out to show where the world of superheroes contradicts modern science, granting the heroes one or more "miracle exceptions" from natural law. Instead, he focuses on examples of comic book scenes that can be used to understand the diverse laws of physics from an unusual angle,It talks if the superpower were possible e.g. if the superhero could have this power what are physics behind making it happen if the physics in our world do not change. I tried to apply the same methodology to the last Airbender bending water. The last Airbender's power is the ability to manipulate water. This is possible if you take a comb This means that he must have some kind of electrical charge or to be able to pick up balls of water on earth. From this space video you can see that the in space with no gravity the surface tension is not trapped by the configns of gravity and in this case surface tension wins. However, the last Airbender is supposedly on earth so this kind does not apply. I would also not assume that somehow he makes a microgravity around the water. The water's cohesive forces should allow it to stick together though. However you can bend water by placing it in a charged field. The molecules that make up the water (H2O - hydrogen and oxygen) form a bond that is polarized - which means that it has a slightly positive end and a slightly negative end and are neutral. This means that when you put water molecules in a charged (magnetic) field, you can bend it by having a negative charge. To understand the effect electrostatic interaction between electrically charged particles in a electric field (Coulombs Law) you have to understand classical electromagnetism.

I mentioned above that in the absence of a gravitational field you might you can see the water particles sticking together. Interestingly enough Coulomb's law (interaction of electric charges and Newton's law of universal gravitation have parallels e.g. both are central and conservative, obey inverse square law of r, propagate at speed of light, electric charge and relativistic mass are conserved.

They have some differences e.g. electrostatic forces are much greater 10xE36 more than gravitational, gravitation attracted to like charges, electrostatic forces repulsive for like charges, gravitational forces are always attractive whereas electrostatic forces can be positive or negative. So the last air bender would have to be made a lot of charged particles (not sure how much) in order to bend water and throw it at his enemies... (calculations later)

Coulombs Law

Newton's Law

Newtons Law

Go ahead tough guy bend some water. Or you know if there are like bullies around just tell them you can bend water like a Shaolin monk. Then pull out your comb go to the bathroom and turn on the tap. I guarantee it here that you will not get the crap kicked out of you. Figure it out here: