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The Flash goes from zero to ??? in an eye blink. As he does not have a Saturn 5 rocket on his back, how do you explain the acceleration? How do you explain his ability to stop on a dime and turn corners without the effects of inertia? How do you explain his alternate effect on the world around (lack of friction heat)? How do you explain his ability to perceive so fast that he does not bump into things, can calculate where to turn flawlessly at such speed, etc?

  • Does he move normally in a massively slowed time-warp?
  • Do his muscle fibers twitch at an impossibly high rate?
  • Would his brain have to process incoming information at a speed far beyond normal consciousness, and wouldn't that make him a super-genius by normal standards?
  • Why doesn't at least his suit heat up and burst into flame from air friction? Same for his boots and normal friction?

Or is it all "magic" and we are just supposed to accept that it "just happens?"

  • How about friction? You'd think the atmosphere would tear him apart... – Ed S. Feb 25 '16 at 6:26
  • It's just magic. – Adamant Oct 26 '18 at 18:06
22

The Flash's powers have evolved since the character's first appearance in 1940. While they were supposedly scientifically-based, little effort was made to explain any Flash's powers until the late sixties or early seventies re-creation of Barry Allen as the Silver Age Flash.

Jay Garrick who was once called the Golden Age or Earth-2 Flash, gained his powers from exposure to radioactive or "hard water." Despite this attempt at science, all of the Flash's powers may as well be considered magic since they depend primarily on the existence of the "Speed Force" as an underlying engine for their existence.

Flash depictions throughout the decades

The Flash, one of DC Comics most successful legacy heroes is part of the mythic nature of the DC characterizations. Considered (and patterned) after the god of Speed, Hermes/Mercury, the Flash was part of DC's pantheon of heroes and has remained so since the character's inception in the 1940's.

While the writers at DC have varied in their efforts and ability to describe the Flash's abilities over the decades using scientific terms, it has been established (until just recently with the new discussions of the Speed Force) that his powers were definitely based in science.

The most basic explanation is speedsters in the DC Universe interact with an energy aura that surrounds and permeates their bodies, allowing them to move faster than normal humans, and become capable of superhuman feats. These feats include:

Simple Feats:

  • Catching bullets, disarming multiple opponents, striking a single target multiple times.
  • Nearly perfect short term memory; a Flash can read a publication in minutes, retain and use the information for hours. Flashes have been known to use that knowledge to rebuild damaged structures (like homes) or create machines for singular purposes.
  • Run up the sides of buildings, run across the surface of bodies of water.
  • Even as the Flash's have aged, most can still run faster than the speed of sound.

More advanced capabilities include:

  • an energy field (commonly called their "speed aura")that surrounds their body and protects them from friction injuries when they are moving at superspeed. This aura also imparts protection against kinetic damage from fast moving objects or things the Flash might run into at superspeed.
  • sharing their speed aura, allowing non-speedsters to be able of short bursts of superspeed.
  • imparting kinetic energy to another subject, making it capable of moving faster
  • various levels of molecular control, allowing them to vibrate their molecular structure, allowing them to pass though matter
  • various speed feats such as vortex creation used to remove air from a location, blast an enemy backwards or cushion a falling object on a blast of air.

Only the most powerful speedsters can:

  • Run fast enough to approach the speed of light. This feat needs complete control over a Flash's speed aura, molecular control and endurance enough to enter the Speed Force dimension.
  • Utilizing the right technology (the Cosmic Treadmill) Flashes have been known to travel through time in a controlled fashion.
  • Travel through time without any technology at all. Highly dangerous, and has the potential to lose the speedster in time.
  • Utilize the Flash's approach to light-speed as a weapon called the "Infinite Mass Punch" using relativistic movement and the increase of mass due to that effect as a weapon.

This discussion has been touched upon in earlier discussions about the Flash in:

The Flash is a name shared by several fictional comic book superheroes from the DC Comics universe. Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert, the original Flash first appeared in Flash Comics #1 (January 1940).

  • 10
    That image is amazing in how he gets "hypermasculinized" gradually through the decades (his 2000s physique looks like he has a 26" waist, absurdly broad shoulders...and a tiny head). – Chelonian Jun 3 '12 at 2:16
  • 3
    I know. I noticed that. When I was growing up, the Flash was one of the leanest heroes in the Justice League. Now, he is as swollen as all the rest. I think it reflects on the hypermasculine nature of comics today. Another side effect of fan boys growing up and taking over the industry. It has lost any chance of having voices that could restrain this trend. Imagine 20 or 30 years from now... – Thaddeus Howze Jun 3 '12 at 2:22
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    I think that there's something to the "hypermasculinity" argument, but it also seems to me that we're seeing a general increase in detail in musculature (as the standards for art have risen drastically). We're seeing different views of the same guy until the 2000 view, which is clearly an idealized, non-realistic representation. – Chris B. Behrens Oct 7 '14 at 19:37
  • @Chris B. Behrens - The 90s version looks pretty idealized too, I don't think you'd see muscles that clearly defined outside of serious weightlifters (or, y'know, people who have had been skinned) – Hypnosifl Nov 11 '15 at 23:18
  • 1
    Not that female superheroes have over-exaggerated... attributes at all, of course! – Jane S Feb 25 '16 at 2:53
8

Flash's body (the Barry Allen Flash) produces an aura that protects him from heat generated by friction. His mind works just as fast as his body; he can calculate things quickly, but genius seems to be a qualitative difference in thinking, not just speed. (If you speed up a dog's brain, he still won't be good at math, he'll just do what dogs are good at, only faster.)

Other than general hand-waving explanations like the ones above, you're supposed to just accept that Flash can do these things. Comic books aren't hard science fiction; they are typically written for children who wouldn't understand the scientific concepts even if the story bothered to explain them.

2

The closest thing I've heard or seen to an actual "scientific" explanation is that the lightning strike + chemicals somehow excited the molecules of his body to an unforeseen level. This was the case for Barry Allen as well as for Wally West. Obviously there are numerous holes in this theory, as with pretty much any other comic-book origin.

Sticking with that explanation, he gained the ability to move quickly with little concern for friction, inertia, or momentum. He also gained the ability to think and react just as quickly. How he keeps his body temperature down or prevents his mass from liquefying... well, those are mysteries.

-1

The Flash was struck by lightning. This excited his cells to a rate that allowed him to move at super-speed and rapidly heal himself. Also, the Speed Force, an extra-dimensional energy, is used to help the Flash enter his stage of super-speed.

Physics proves that running at the speed of light is impossible with Einstein's e=MC squared. Real-life Flashes are highly unlikely but getting faster is not. 4 mm, 4 minute mile, jet packs are used for humans so that they may run a for minute mile.

Also, there are DNA extractions that can help to cause a human to run faster. The Flash uses his excited cells and speed force to accelerate a super speed.

Catching humans and saving people would be almost impossible because of the speed at which the Flash travels. His super speed would crush a humans skull and send the brain rushing into the back of the head.

Since the Flash is a comic book character, anything is possible. The chemicals that the Flash lands in after getting struck by lightning help to generate energy for the cells to move at speeding rates. The Flash is made possible by these enhanced cells and extra-dimensional materials like the Speed Force.

  • Welcome to SFFSE! This doesn't really add anything to the already accepted answer. Why not look for another question to answer? – Often Right Nov 11 '15 at 23:42
-2

When Flash taps into the Speed Force, he is able to perceive time as slow as he wants to without aging. Speed Force is an extra-dimensional force.

  • 1
    You need to back up a claim like that with some sources, particularly if your answer is only two sentences. Downvote. – James Sheridan Jan 5 '15 at 11:43
-2

Well, first his suit is fireproof. Though going so fast it would incinerate from the heat, maybe the suit is made of carbon materials. Those materials are used in chemical warfare. Also, the suit might be made on nano fibers and nano sheets. They are the most heat resistant materials and can move faster than a human muscle.

Rick Barry was struck by this red lightning, gave him speed, infinity stamina, and apparently fire proof. So wearing the suit with the nano sheets, fibers, and carbon materials would move faster than Barry would be without the suit, and would be fireproof from the carbon materials.

-2

The Speed Force allows him to manipulate physics and alter his perception of time and space. Meaning he is able to perceive the slightest things such as a hair on the floor across the room. He has an almost precognition of his surroundings.

protected by Often Right Nov 11 '15 at 23:32

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