A new study has been conducted recently that will answer the questions that have bothered us all; does the cape of Superman slow him down? The study was posted on Reddit and was carried out as the final project in a low-speed aerodynamics class by the user, Th3Fa113nCru5ad3.
Th3Fa113nCru5ad3 used an Iron Man figurine for this project. The said figurine was placed inside the low-speed wind tunnel of the university for taking the readings. The Redditor Th3Fa113nCru5ad3 outlined the findings of the study on September 9 in a post that was titled, ‘One of my greatest Mythbusts (If you flew like Superman, does the cape actually slow you down in flight?)’
The Reddit user, Th3Fa113nCru5ad3, explains how the user’s colleagues ‘decided to do studies on F-117s, F-16s, and other aircraft to replicate previous studies performed.’ The OP (original poster), however, stuck to the aerodynamics of an entity that is much more powerful; Superman. As per the OP, the inspiration for the project came from the scene in The Incredibles where Edna Mode says, ‘no capes!’ The OP further says that the study was based on the fact’ that society is pretty convinced that capes offer no advantages in flight, but no data was present.’
The student wanted to measure the forces that would act upon a Superman who was traveling at flight speeds of Mach 0.2 – 0.7 by making use of Reynolds number. Reynolds number is a value that can be utilized ‘to scale models to their full-scale counterparts in flight.’ The Reddit user, Th3Fa113nCru5ad3, then goes on to reason that this would be close to the speed that Superman would fly at assuming that he is not breaking the sound barrier. As per the OP, the Iran Man figurine is also streamlined enough to be used during the experiment as Superman figurine.
For this experiment to work, a strain gauge was affixed to a piece of PVC pipe, and the pipe was then attached to the groin of Iron Man using epoxy. This enabled the OP to place Iron Man in a flying pose so that the experiment could be carried out using a cape and without it. Once the experiment was over, the OP explained how drag forces that were created by the airflow sweeping across the figurine would cause deflection to the PVC pipe, thus causing the gauge to be strained. The student was able to translate the voltage reading from the strain gauge to the total drag force experienced.
The OP describes the results in the following words, ‘At first, I thought something was wrong with my test setup, however, after conferring with my professor and other university faculty, to my own amazement, the heavy and bigger the cape is, the less drag force is experienced. Basically, you fly faster with capes!’ The problem that was faced by the user was that ‘the larger and heavier the cape, the more it’s gonna flap around, creating instability. However, the average of those fluctuations still deems lower drag forces than without a cape.’ The OP finally concludes, ‘the cape acts like a streamlined surface that helps to delay the separation of the airflow to further downstream of the figurine, resulting in a smaller separation area and therefore a lower profile drag. The longer the cape, the further downstream the separation.’
The OP while talking about getting the research published, said, ‘My group has a research paper written, and I’m currently in the works of getting it submitted to an academic journal. Once that happens, the paper will be released!’