The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Speed of a Superhero: Smallville

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The purpose of this analysis is to determine the velocity of Superman (a.k.a. Clark Kent a.k.a. Tom Welling) as he is running across the Reeves Dam to get to project 33.1 in the television show Smallville.


This scene is from "Phantom", the last episode of season six of Smallville. In the scene Clark has just found out about Lex's operation known as Project 33.1. The project revolves around capturing people that were affected (gained superpowers) by meteorites and doing tests on them in hopes of replicating their powers in normal human beings. Lex has gotten hold of a phantom (a super being that escaped from the phantom zone; a prison where Kryptonian prisoners were held) and is now trying to extract its blood so he could use it to make his own super human army. Clark is on one side of the bridge that leads to the facility and then he suddenly shoots towards the door using his super speed.

We are going to use a basic physics formula to do this

v = d/t




Trial Time (s)
Time (s)
1 0.531 0.571
2 .551 0.566
3 0.550 0.553
4 0.541 0.540
5 0.581 0.566

To find the speed of Clark Kent as he shoots across the bridge we used the equation

v = d/t

We found the time(t) by using the average of the values of the data at the right.

The time it took Clark to travel across the bridge was 0.555 s.

To find the length of the bridge we made a ratio equation with information that we had obtained by using WadRuler. We know the height of Clark Kent on screen (13 pixels), the length of the bridge on screen (502 pixels), and the actual length of the actor (75 inches). Using this we set up the following ratio to determine the length of the bridge:

(13 pixels)*(X)=(502 pixels)*(75 inches)
X = 2,896 inches or 241 feet or 73.56 meters

Then we figured out the speed by using the following equation

v = d/t
v = (73.56 m)/(0.555 s)
v = 133 m/s or 477 km/h or 296 mph


Based on the analysis Superman's speed as he ran across the bridge was 133 m/s or 477 km/h or 296 mph.

Sources of Error

Tabraiz Rasul, William Wong -- 2007

Physics on Film
  1. Feature Films
    1. Coefficient of friction for skin: The Incredible Hulk
    2. Compression strength of bone and brick: Sin City
    3. Force of a superhero: Superman Returns
    4. Speed of a car: Road Trip
    5. Speed of a minibike: Jackass Number Two
    6. Speed of a spear: Troy
    7. Speed of a subway: Batman Begins
    8. Speed of superhero: Smallville
  2. Video Clips
    1. Force of a windmill slam dunk: Vince Carter
    2. Force of a windmill slam dunk: Dominique Wilkins
    3. Speed of a retired basketball player
    4. Speed of a cliff diver: Huge Cliff Jump
  3. Video Games
    1. Acceleration due to gravity: Super Mario Brothers
    2. Speed of a football player: Madden NFL 2006