Why is the Flash so much slower on television than the comics?

The Short Answer: Because on television, he doesn’t need to run at the speed of light for the television series to exist and tell compelling stories. He is only as fast as he needs to be. Right now, that is twice the speed of sound and it is perfect for storytelling with an ensemble cast.

Why didn’t they start him moving as fast as he does in the comics? It sure would be convenient for getting places. At the speed of light, Barry could circle the globe seven times in one second!

As I have explained in other treatments about the Flash, he doesn’t need to be moving at the speed of light for stories to happen. This is a major boon to the how the television show works. In fact, keeping the Flash slower than he is in the comics offers a few major storytelling benefits:

  • Barry always has something to strive for; he wants to get faster. When he deals with his issues during the series, most of them revolve around him being faster than he is. Since many of his enemies are either immune to his still-developing powers (Girder) or he is slower than his foes (Reverse Flash, Zoom), this gives him a constant need to improve his abilities.
  • Why he’s slower isn’t clear, but we know technology, his state of mind, his belief in his ability all affect his ability to be fast. Honestly, I would like the television series to NEVER allow him to reach the speed of light unless they address his powers in a clean and succinct manner. Right now, his power is too vague and they run the risk of making him a highly unbalanced character just like he appears in his comics.
  • I suspect most television shows are happy with the ensemble support team for superheroes because it allows for cast members who are regularly involved, regularly endangered, and constantly creating sub-threads for writers to weave into the story.
  • A Flash who operates at two times the speed of sound is just fast enough to be fast, and yet still slow enough for stories to require support from Team Flash. The Flash is an ensemble show, mixing science, technology, teamwork, and super-speed into a unique formula for interaction.
  • In most cases, I theorize the televised Flash doesn’t even need to reach the speed of sound inside of Central City. Three hundred miles per hour is more than enough to reach from one side of the city to the other in under a minute. See: How fast can the Flash run a mile?

The More Complicated Answer: If you don’t want to know more about the Flash, his powers, how they work and why the Flash is broken, you have everything you need in that first paragraph.

  • If you still think there is something to be learned after that, you have been warned the reason the Flash is a flawed or broken character is because people who write the character have no true understanding of what his speed will allow.
  • As such, different writers and editors have completely different takes on the character making each interpretation unique and likely never to be seen again unless that writer takes over the book once more.

There are two graphics presented whenever a comic Flash fan wants to tell us how great the Flash is. Here is the first.

Because many Flash fans presume the Flash is ALWAYS moving at the speed of light or faster just to get a loaf of bread from the store. He isn’t. From a narrative point of view he shouldn’t be any faster than he needs to be to tell good stories. Right now, twice the speed of sound is FAST ENOUGH.

Here is the second:

It is THIS particular feat which causes most Flash fans to wet their pants about how fast the Flash is. A nuclear weapon is detonated in a city. The Flash empties the city, two people at a time, moving at presumably trillions of times the speed of light.

These crazed fans figure he did this feat once, he should be able to do it ALL the time. Because he’s the Flash, and that’s what we’re paying for.

As a writer, I reject this premise completely. Let’s look at the character from a successful narrative point of view:

  • If the Flash were operating at this level all the time, wouldn’t that make him an incredibly dull character as he zips through town solving problems so fast no one ever saw them.
  • More important he would be completely crazy since for him, the world is motionless unless he slows down enough to let things happen in the first place.
  • Such a story has taken place. In the Kingdom Come universe, the Flash never stops moving, EVER. A silent blur fighting crime in Central City but never stopping, never resting, completely alone, likely insane as well. (See below.)

Here is the most important thing to remember, the Flash can only resolve issues he can see. He does not have supervision, super-senses or other forms of super-awareness, thus he can only interact with the world at the speed of light. So he solves issues IF he can see them, sense them or have the information relayed to him so that he could take action in the first place.

Yes, we have been told this on more than one occasion when a good writer takes over the book. The Flash when moving at light speed has difficulties perceiving the world around him. It is not clear HOW he senses the world (no writer wants the responsibility for being blamed for answering this question) but some stories handle it better than others.

Even as fast as the Flash is in this scene, circling the world in under a second, the villain still manages to get away since the Flash has to be able to react AFTER slowing down. In his slower state, Inertia simply had the jump on him and escapes.

Thus the earlier mentioned nuclear event in Korea required him to run through the city and FIND every single person. People in hospitals, people in showers, people walking from work, people in any number of inconvenient situations. But he would have to scour every building everywhere physically. Most likely he is using his intangibility to move through the city until he has to grab someone and then racing them to the edge of the city.

  • Yes, under duress, under specific circumstances in the comics, the Flash does move fast, really fast, so fast he violates the laws of physics and moves at the speed of light or faster.
  • He is protected (and so are we) from the effects of such relativistic movement in atmosphere. He would be igniting the atmosphere and ripping the crust of the planet apart as he gained mass with ever step. I’m just saying.
  • Despite most of the senior Flashes (Jay Garrick, Barry Allen or Wally West) in the comics do NOT operate at light speed (and the attendant reaction time) if they can help it. Why? Because moving that fast comes with a bump in their reaction time which slows down the appearance of the world around him.

This means when Barry is moving faster, the world is moving slower. But from his perspective, he is still thinking faster than everything around him, except for other people with enhanced reflexes and/or enhanced movement. This makes his subjective interaction with the world take longer, where for him, mentally days could pass in seconds in this subjectively enhanced state.

The comic series never deals with this psychological issue because it would be inconvenient to explain and most of the time when the Flash is moving that fast, he is also interacting with other people at that speed so he is distracted from what would be long periods of mental stress from being alone for a long time.

That’s an issue for another time.

Let’s talk about the Elephant in the room: How can anyone interact with a character who can move and think at superhuman speed?

Most of the writing related to the Flash simply doesn’t consider his powers the way most fans think his powers work. Part of this is bad writing, part of this is the poorly-managed expectations of the readers. The Flash needs to be thought about the same way you might think of any other physical object needing to achieve high speed.

  • Stop assuming any Flash functions at superspeed all the time. Their minds ramp up as their speed ramps up. Their abilities are like any other athlete, they need room and time to reach maximum speed. It may be only a femtosecond, but it is still a delay no matter how small.
  • As the earlier example indicates, the Flash doesn’t need much time to reach top speed but there is a brief delay depending on what he’s doing. Moving in a straight line works best for him to achieve relativistic speeds.
  • If you assume comic Barry exists, when he was functioning at superspeed,  in a world of NO MOTION (because at high speeds, that is exactly what the world looks like to him, almost completely still) it would be impossible for him to have a relationship to the real world that would not drive him insane.
  • Instead, let’s consider him just a normal man doing normal things until he starts needing his speed. Even his speed reflexes have been shown to have to ramp up and depending on the threat, they can ramp up quickly (like when someone pressed a gun to his head and fired).
  • From a psychological point of view, the Flash is depicted as a regular guy whose powers come online in proportion to the speed he is using to solve a problem.
  • When he is moving at lightspeed (which takes a considerable amount of time, energy and effort) at least when most good writers write him, he is otherwise just reflexively using his power in proportion to the speed he is going. The assumption everyone makes is he can go from zero to lightspeed in NO distance. Most writers DON’T depict this.
  • Most of the time he needs to ramp up, get some distance and THEN go full out, amplifying both his reflexes, his cognitive ability and his intangibility because he can’t navigate at light speed, it’s mostly just straight lines.
  • Since many writers don’t know much about physics, light, the ramifications of superspeed, they just write whatever comes into their heads. The good ones intuit what I just described (Carmine Infantimo was great for describing how Barry thought and interacted at high speeds) but many writers failed to do this.
  • New depictions of the Flash show him thinking ahead, watching the results of actions in his mental prediction engine and then using the least amount of effort, resolving issues at super-speed, invisibly.
  • In confrontations with beings who have enhanced reflexes and hand to hand speed but NO running speed, conflicts between the two of them will occur at superspeed from the perspective of normal humans who cannot react at higher levels of reflexive movement as long as they remain in hand to hand range. Thus Deathstroke and the Flash are mixing it up at superspeed and it behooves Deathstroke to reduce the Flash’s speed and distract the Flash in order to bring his speed DOWN.

Read: Why isn’t the Flash Unstoppable – How the Flash’s Rogue’s Gallery keeps the Scarlet Speedster on his toes.

  • This technique is how ALL of the Flash’s rogues keep the Flash off-balance by keeping his speed low and his reaction time closer to being Human. Under these conditions, the Flash is fast, his reflexes are fast, but they are faster as he gets the opportunity to BE faster or fight faster.
  • If you assume Deathstroke has the same kind of mental speed aspects as the Flash does, when the Flash is approaching him in tight corners in close spaces, he isn’t running at light speed. He’s running at his cruising speed of about two hundred miles an hour. More than fast enough to appear invisible to most people who can’t do what he does, but well within Slade’s enhanced reflexes and prediction rates.
  • Slade doesn’t just match Barry’s speeds, he calculates where he’s going to be, Barry doesn’t see a still Slade, he sees a Slade moving as fast as he is and may take his eye off the enemy due to distractions on the battlefield.
  • This makes interactions with normal Humans completely reasonable as he would be driven mad if he had to suppress his mental abilities in order to eat dinner with his family or take a shower.
  • He doesn’t suppress his power, it simply isn’t active. He is just a normal guy until he charges himself with the speedforce and ACTS. Dinner is just dinner until a need for speed is required. This makes him able to be tricked, distracted, mislead and even hit, if his opponent can get the drop on him before his speed is amplified and he starts fighting at higher speeds.

Truth be told, given the feats performed by the Flash over the decades, it is bizarre how often the comic works given the incredible powers the Flash possesses. But those same feats, written by different writers means the character’s powers are always different, sometimes contradictory.

Ultimately, this is just my two bits. I don’t get paid by DC to clean up their sloppy writing.

 

Lending Club 2015 Data Viz (pt.1)

data is Bae


The fintech (Financial Technology) industry is in hyper-growth and there are many players entering the space. The biggest company in the industry right now is Lending Club, with over $13 Billion in loans issued as of 9/30/2015. Fortunately, Lending Club provides their data files to the public and after importing the 2015 loan data I was able to create a couple of data visualizations.

The following Tableau Public dashboards provides insight into the types of jobs Lending Club’s borrowers possess. I provided filters so you can look at the data based on different loan purposes, i.e. The loan will be used for a car, wedding or debt consolidation, just to name a few. (Note: I did not change any of the field names and used only the field names that Lending Club provides publicly). One insight that came from this data is that teachers are the highest rank for sum…

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Does anyone notice that his/her quality of writing diminishes through the course of NaNoWriMo?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

Quality may have taken a hit. But that's not the problem.

It's your enthusiasm you have to worry about.

When you started, you were filled with the zeal of a new idea, a tale untold, trapped within you, ready finally to be freed with the thought of  National Novel Writing Month to buoy you though the trying times; the camaraderie, the gatherings, the laughter and tears of your mutual tribulations.

It sounded glorious!

If you were diligent, you gathered your research around you. If you were writing mysteries, you gathered data on pathology reports, investigative techniques, and ten of your favorite gumshoe novels for inspiration.

If you were planning for a space opera, you had already decided which laws of physics you were going to violate, whether your aliens spoke the same languages, how different aliens needed to be sure they wouldn't poison each other at the dinner table (or how they could…). You had already created the circumstance where these three aliens would come to blows and maybe intergalactic war!

Whatever tale you planned to tell, you had prepared your notes to help you remember how to pace your story. You had your timeline of character movements in the story, how they would cross your world and ultimately where they would meet their final fate, in the case of those unfortunate ones. You knew how the story started, where it turned, how it moved, where the bumps in the road and the major betrayals would take place. After all, that's what an outline is for.

Or you might be one of those rare creative types which eschews anything as formal as an outline (hurumph) no self-respecting panster would be caught dead with one on their person. Pantsters live by their ability to create tales of magic, mystery and wonder literally by willing it into existence while you wait.

They don't need structure, the tale will unfold itself, in its own pace, at its own time; the characters will reveal themselves to the author, unfolding like the single page of paper the pantster refuses to admit they used to flesh out their characters. A sentence, nothing more. The pantster is often as surprised as the reader when they read their work at the end of the day.

No matter your route to this point, the challenge of preparing yourself to write and the actual ACT of writing, has saddled you with the realization, that you knew in your heart, and only remember when you get about ten thousand words in.

Writing is hard work.

Your brain uses 30% of all the oxygen you breathe in on a given day. All the other parts of you, your face, arms, hands, digestive system, lungs, heart, liver, legs and feet, get the rest. The brain is like the government. The lungs bring in 100% of the oxygen but the Brain takes 30% right off the top. No questions asked.

The brain is using its 100 billion neurons to allow you to alter reality. To imagine a thing which does not exist. To create a realm of existence filled with whatever you can envision in your mind's eye and can convince your fingers to push past your fear, your trepidation of not being good enough, smart enough, capable enough to create something out of nothing more than a dream you shared in November.

At the 10,000 word point, you are looking around and saying: How did I get here?

You are wondering if you can move your hero past the beginning of the journey, where he must leave the safety of home and head out into the world. His perils must be enough to compel the reader to feel sympathy but not so dangerous, he would, if he had good sense, return home. Unless you were ruthless and burned his home, nay his entire village to the ground.

So you must go on. Can you make those journey's interesting? The energy of your early writings, the adherence to fanciful language has now fallen away to the drudgery of the task. To get your hero through the rising action of the story, the difficult part of making things happen, which reveal parts of the story, introduce the villains, throw out a few plots to resolve along the way until you can reach the awesome most terrifying, most intense part of any book for any writer.

The Climax. Ohhh. Sounds so dirty, doesn't it? The part of the story you KNOW you have been trying to get to since your character left home. You have this part in your head, or your heart. You know what you wanted to happen, you have been working toward it and thus the book feels lighter than the crushing ball of internal lead you have been carrying up to this point.

For the first time, you have crested the mountain and can see the other side. The End is in sight. It's probably November 25 at this point. You are weary. Creatively bone weary. Your hero's journey at least for this first book in your tetralogy is drawing to a close.

His denouement and yours are coinciding. You weary of his complaints. You sicken of you need to coddle him or torment him further, in preparation for his next book of adventures.

You walk him to the hospital, bleeding from untreated bullet wounds, trying to have him have clever one-liners as he's wheeled in. He makes eye contact with the nurse helping him and they share a mile as she jabs him with a number ten I.V. needle…

Your hero grabs his dying companion who pushes a small gem to him. The secret of the quest. You knew he had it and it was finally time for your hero to take up his destiny. As he touches it, the energy stored from his dying companion suffuses his body. The gem takes up its residence on the brow of your hero. He rises as he hears the enemy dragons in the distance…

You're thinking to yourself: Oh, God (Noodly-appendaged-One, Goddess, Horned Diety from a Dismal Dimension, other patron deity of writing as needed), its almost over…

It will take a lot of energy to get to this point. So you are to be forgiven if your lyrical prose in your early writing starts to get a bit saggy near the end. The effort of remaining wonderful, magnificently creative starts to wear on even the most fertile of minds, once they begin writing on a work.

This is perfectly normal and you can fight this feeling if you are writer by thinking about your writing during the course of your day instead of waiting until the moment you are about to start writing, to consider the work for the first time. Your brain is cold. The engine sputters, coughs, wheezes to life.

What kind of writing could you expect to get out of your work-weary, mass-transit traumatized, hellscape on wheels, hours-in-traffic-addled creativity well of a brain to be able to produce at the end of the day?

Not much.

Patterson, huh. We can do better.

How about you consider the next scene in your book when you get up in the morning while your brain is still fresh?

  • Play it over in your shower and then off to work. Mess with your dialogue and where you want the story to go while you are standing in line for lunch.
  • Get excited over what story that particular scene, chapter or event will have in the overall flow of your story.
  • Hold on to that enthusiasm while you are writing this thing you have played with all day, this idea you have looked at from all sides, protagonist wanting something, antagonists taking something.
  • Your enthusiasm for a crafting a well-viewed scene should be palpable.
  • And your story should feel more alive because you are writing it when your brain is more alive and playing with the story while your brain is more active, spreading creativity like fairy dust on all of your work, not just your writing but at your job.
  • People may notice this creative approach to your work and look forward to November when you begin creating something anew, with enthusiasm, zeal and vigor through out the month.

It should make torturing your hero, overheating your brain and starving your cat totally worth it.

You've got this. Write like a beast and remember: The dream is free. But the Hustle costs extra.

This is what you'll feel like when you're done. Stop pontificating and get back to work.

About the Author:

Does anyone notice that his/her quality of writing diminishes through the course of NaNoWriMo?

Has any Green Lantern ever used his ring with notable efficiency?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

Not until the Modern Era

But there are always exceptions in every era. A Green Lantern's weakness is not the ring (s)he's wielding but the writers who's telling the stories.

One of the more impressive feats of the Modern Age Green Lanterns was when John Stewart managed to have more willpower than the Power Ring could utilize in his attempt to restore the destroyed planet of Xanshi. A mark of shame for him as the world was destroyed due to a moment of overconfidence and stands, to him, as a testament of failure during his tenure as a Green Lantern.

In the Golden Age

Overall, Green Lanterns weren't incredibly impressive besides the fact there were, for the first time, more than one of them (unlike the Golden Age, when there was only Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern).

Early Alan Scott's Green Lantern used his ring in a number of relatively simple ways including:

  • the ability to instantly change into his costume,
  • the power of flight,
  • a bit of enhanced strength,
  • projection of the Green Power, usually as flames or later beams of force.

With a 1930-1950s audience, this was usually quite sufficient to satisfy the readers.

His power was later claimed to have been derived from the Starheart, an alien construct made by the Guardians of Oa after they gathered rogue magic from the Universe to establish a more scientifically structured reality. This retcon connected the Golden Age Green Lantern with his Silver Age counterpart.

In the Silver Age

Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan was never depicted using very complicated or interesting shapes, forms or constructs. I always imagined him as a guy who used the least amount of effort required to solve a problem.

​​​To be fair to the character, Hal's creativity was limited by the writer and a writer's willingness to think deeply on the Green Power and what might be able to be done to create more interesting feats with it.

The Silver Age is quite long and there are many times Green Lanterns in the hands of more creative writers might do more interesting things with the ring than just simple force projections.

For example: Hal protects himself and the rest of the Justice League from a SUPER NOVA, and then converts his friends to Negative Radiant energy to ride out the supernova and escape an energy being intent on eating them:

In a Silver Age Green Lantern story written by Larry Niven, Hal uses the power rings to go many times the speed of light and was able to go far enough, fast enough, for one of his energy beams to undergo a redshift and turn from green to yellow in a matter of seconds. For me, this was an outstanding and creative use of the ring. Probably one of the most interesting of the Silver Age.

Hal uses his ring to force realign the molecular structure of a cage designed to prevent the Flash from using his vibration powers to escape.

  • The cage changes every time the Flash tries to harmonize his vibrations with it. Since Hal is a non-scientist (his greatest weakness) he doesn't quite understand what the Flash wants to do.
  • But he uses the ring to create a super-microscope, able to see down to the molecular level and once he understands the problem, realigns and forces the molecules in the cage to stay in a single configuration.
  • Then its back to giant mallet time. Writers, you can't live with 'em, you can't shoot 'em. How do you go from using the ring so creatively back to swinging a giant green mallet…

The Modern Age

After the League was thrashed around in the Watchtower (and the Fortress of Solitude) by Fernus:

  • Green Lantern, John Stewart recreates a "fully functional and self-sustaining communications/scanning station" which even taps into the JLA teleporters, with his ring.
  • John essentially uses the ring's internal database to replicate the technology of the JLA satellite and recreate it and all of the services that technology provided.
  • Hal Jordan and Superman effectively tow the Earth against the pull of a powerful alien force, all 5.972 sextillion (1,000 trillion) metric tons of it. Knowing Green Lantern, he let Superman do all the heavy lifting. He just protected the entire planet from being torn apart and stuff like that.

Modern Era readers are blessed with a more diverse group of writers and a more extraordinary opportunity to see the power of the Emotional Electromagnetic Spectrum used in far more interesting ways than ever before. A cornucopia of different and novel uses are shown across the Blackest Night Saga.

While readers are always seeking new ways of seeing their characters perform, they tend to ignore previous generations of writers as limited, not understanding that in the era those stories were told, writers were, at the time considered just as cutting edge as our modern writers are today.

A generation from now, the uses of the Green Power (assuming there are still Green Lantern comics) will be as different, strange and anachronistic as the early depictions of Green Lantern appear to us today. During the Blackest Night saga, there was the first real depiction of Green Lanterns interacting with the Green Energy in different and very personal ways.

Our sector's five official Green Lantern Corps members are:

  • Hal Jordan: The first Green Lantern of Earth, test pilot, adventurer, superhero; longest history as a Green Lantern, known for his superior will power and mastery of his personal fear. While Hal gets a lot of flack from writers about his lack of imagination, the character is an everyman, a test pilot, not a scientist. He is a man whose flaws are exceeded only by his supreme willpower, arguably his will is equaled by only a few Green Lanterns anywhere among the Corps.
  • Guy Gardner: The second Green Lantern of Earth. He started as a backup Lantern and after saving the day a few times, got to stay active. An insufferable ass for many years, he suffered brain damage which altered his personality, some thought for the better. When he recovered his perspective had changed a bit but he was still loud, brash and barely restrained. His use of the Green Power is also considered similarly, barely contained, with power splashing out from it randomly.
  • John Stewart: A replacement for Guy Gardner; Stewart was an architect and former Marine, former Guardian (in a different continuity), and a total badass; blessed with an incredible willpower and a keen analytical mind, he creates the most realistic and effective constructs of all five. His architecture and military training would have him using the Green Power surgically and creatively as a weapon of war. He is also the only Green Lantern to ever wield the power as directly as an actual Guardian of Oa, brief though it was. See: Green Lantern: Mosaic.
  • Kyle Rayner: After the destruction of the Corps, the Last Guardian, Ganthet creates a new ring and gives it to Rayner. Rayner restarts the Corps and ushers in a new age of Green Lanterns. And a whole lot of other stuff. Kyle is the most imaginative of the five and uses his ring in ways none of the others ever did. His imaginative creations were so diverse, it was said he never created the same construct twice. He has effectively become the most powerful Lantern ever now that he is the wielder of the White Power, the most capable of all the Emotional Spectrum Powers.
  • Simon Baz: Newest Green Lantern of Sector 2814, assigned due to the difficulties the Corps was undergoing and the long periods where Hal, John, and Guy were off-world on Guardian business.

Other Legendary Green Lanterns:

  • Kilowog is not a member of the 2814 crew but he has been considered one of the most powerful Green Lanterns to have ever used a ring. He has been a trainer of Green Lanterns for many years and trained Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner.
  • Sinestro was also considered one of the most powerful and most creative Green Lanterns to have ever been a member of the Corps. His willpower was unmatched and his constructs were considered the best ever seen. Sinestro has also been a user of various other Lightsmith Corps rings including the Yellow Ring of Fear.
  • Abin Sur was the Green Lantern who died on Earth recruiting Hal Jordan. His mastery of the ring was so great, Sinestro who learned from him considered him one of the greatest of all Green Lanterns.

Has any Green Lantern ever used his ring with notable efficiency?

Black Americans Wearing African Clothing Is NOT Cultural Appropriation

Our Legaci

Maya Angelou and Malcolm X Maya Angelou and Malcolm X in Ghana

The internet has unfortunately become a cesspool for the most simplistic arguments to be sensationalized. The latest finger pointing bandwagon phrase to hit the net is “cultural appropriation.” It’s being slaughtered, with a slew of would be  writers refusing to actually research the meaning of the term before tossing it around carelessly. So is the case with a recent article declaring, that Black Americans were culturally appropriating African cultures by wearing African clothing. It goes without saying, that this bold assertion is as deprived of history, logic and critical analysis as “reverse racism.”

Part I: Let’s begin with the definition of appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is when a dominant culture takes, claims and establishes itself the creator of the cultural heritage and artifacts of a minority and or marginalized culture thereby erasing the history of the marginalized culture.

In Neo-Slave Narratives: Studies of a Social Logic…

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Dammit, just watch Steven Universe Already!

Steven Universe:

Still the best show you aren’t watching. Presented in HD, a new longer Steven Universe open. Something that reveals a bit about the characters, their reasons for doing what they do and in glorious high-definition sound. We even get a glimpse of a new threat from the Homeworld Gems.

Could it be Yellow Diamond? Brrr…

If you watch this show and this new intro doesn’t make you weep, TURN IN YOUR UNIVERSE CARD. Never let us see you again. For the rest of you rabid fans, you didn’t make it to San Diego Comic Con 2015, enjoy!

We love you, Rebecca Sugar (and her amazing team)!

My son asked if The Flash moves so fast, how can he see things. How can I easily explain this?

Answer by Thaddeus Howze:

Because Light is Faster than the Flash!

You can assure your son, Barry Allen as the Fastest Man Alive, is rarely in danger of running faster than he can see because light is almost always faster. In our universe, light is faster than everything!

The Speed Force

The standard answer to most things about the Flash is his relationship to the Speed Force, an enigmatic superset of cosmic energy in the DC Universe, which allows the Flash to perform abilities beyond the laws of physics.

  • The Speed Force is a concept presented in various comic books published by DC Comics, primarily in relation to the various speedsters in the DC Universe.
  • The Speed Force was the extra-dimensional energy that once powered all of the Flash's superhuman abilities. It is not like any other fundamental force.
  • Its origin is likely the same as most superhuman abilities found in the DC Universe, a byproduct of the mysterious omni-energy known as The Source and The Godwave.
  • The ability to access the Speed Force has been limited to only a few individuals in the DC Universe and when DC characters travel to the Marvel Universe, they are unable to access the Speed Force.

The faster the Flash moves the more likely the Speed Force is allowing him to manipulate the laws of physics such as inertia, momentum and force. However, if the Flash should start to approach the speed of light, he would have problems if he was not assisted by the Speed Force. The speed of light is the fastest speed in the Universe, that we know of at 186,282 miles per second or 300,000 kilometers per second.

  • When the Flash is patrolling Central City, he is rarely moving anywhere near his top speed. Most times, he is traveling well below the speed of light, probably no faster than a really nice race car, about two hundred miles an hour. This speed is fast enough he can get anywhere in just a few minutes. He doesn't have to stop for lights, or traffic because he is small enough to fit almost anywhere.
  • A quick way to think about how fast he is moving… 60 miles per hour means he is moving about a mile a minute. A trip to someplace 10 miles a way at a leisurely pace of 60 miles per hour means it takes about ten minutes.
  • If we think of the Flash moving about four times that speed, he could cover that same ten miles in a little over two minutes. More than fast enough to move around a fairly large city with no real traffic restrictions. This is also slow enough so he can get instructions from his friends at Star Labs over his radio. Even if something were twenty miles away, at a safe cruising speed of 240 mph, he is never more than five minutes from anything.
  • In an emergency, if the Flash really wanted to turn on the speed, he might increase his speed to just over the speed of sound at about 760 miles per hour (Mach 1). At this speed though, his ability to change direction is a bit harder so he uses speeds like this when he has lots of straight or gently curving road.
  • While this may seem very fast, race car drivers and pilots control their vehicles, at these speeds, with their well-trained human reflexes.

The Speed Force at work

The source of all human speedsters superhuman abilities is their connection to the Speed Force. Believed to be a subset of the Source, a cosmic repository of energies which power all superhuman ability, this power is uniquely reserved for and accessibly by Human speedsters and anyone utilizing technology which can also access this energy field.

And yes, there is a question of how people like Superman and Wonder Woman have super-speed but don't use the Speed Force. It appears they are able to, as a subset of their own abilities, use greater than human speeds but without the protection and limiters the Speed Force allows. This means when they use their powers, if they aren't careful, they can cause more harm than they might want.

When the Flash is running, the Speed Force surrounds and envelops him in a protective aura.

  • He can extend that aura to people he is carrying, so they are also safe from flying debris, wind burn, friction and other associated speed related issues. All of these energies are bled into the Speed Force and have no effect on the Flash or his surroundings, unless he wants them to. He can withdraw speed from other things or people and add that speed to his own.

Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, steals speed from Superman, slowing him down and boosting himself ahead of the Man of Steel.

  • Most importantly, the Speed Force is augmenting the Flash's brain and his perception, speeding up his thinking process, helping him to organize and coordinate his movements, extending his awareness of his body so he doesn't touch anyone at the speeds he is moving. It would be disastrous.
  • Once the Flash starts moving at speeds faster than sound, the Speed Force goes into overdrive. Once the Flash is opening up his speed, he is faster than a bullet. To outrun a bullet he needs to be able to reach speeds of up to 1,700 miles per hour!
  • His reflex time is so good and he is so fast, he can, using the Speed Force, remove the momentum and energy from a bullet and pluck it out of the air, like a raindrop. Only the Speed Force would allow him to steal the momentum and energy and add it to his own.

  • When the Flash has to kick it up a notch, he might need to move at 4,000 to 8,000 miles per hour, and he still won't have any trouble seeing things. He reserves speeds like these for long distance country running because it is harder to navigate tight streets, particularly at these speeds.
  • When he starts moving this fast, nothing around him will appear to be moving in relationship to him. He is so fast, the normal world may as well be standing still. At these speeds, he is moving as fast as one of our nation's fastest fighter jet (Mach 5 to Mach 10).
  • Walking people and moving cars will appear to be almost motionless to him. And he is moving so fast, he will be invisible to them.

Here's where the Speed Force's effects become clearly evident to the external viewer.

  • Once the Flash reaches the speed of sound (about 700 mph at sea level) he should be capable of generating a sonic boom and a pressure wake capable of knocking people off their feet as he passes. But he doesn't.
  • Bugs striking him at this speed should have the ability to feel like bullets and anything hitting him from the road like gravel would have the damage dealing capacity of small grenades. But they don't.
  • Gravity no longer pulls him down from the sides of buildings and he is able to skip across the surface of the bodies of water, treating it just like a normal surface for him to run on.
  • At these speeds, his reflexes are so fast that high speed projectiles such as bullets are moving slow enough for him to actually track their movement and avoid them completely. But he won't do that, for fear they might hit innocent bystanders. He just grabs them out of the air and drops them on the sidewalk.

The Speed Force channels all of the effects of his motion, save the ones he wants to manipulate into the energy which powers the Flash. He is able to channel the energy of his movement through though the air and thus causes no disturbance he doesn't want to.

 One of the benefits of his powers, however, will allow him to maintain the ability to think, move and react at those speeds. Even though he is as fast as a fighter jet in the middle of town, the Speed Force helps him compensate and think fast enough to maneuver.

So when is vision a problem for the Flash?

The Flash ran from Central City to Singapore and back in just over three seconds. This means he covered 9,300 miles there and back moving at an estimated 6,000 miles per second!

  • Remember when we said the speed of light was 186,282 miles per second, earlier, the Flash was barely moving in comparison. We measured in miles per hour. Now he is moving in miles per SECOND.
  • He could be said to be moving relativistically: moving fast enough to be measured as a percentage of the speed of light. This means when he ran to Singapore and back, he was traveling at 3/100ths of the speed of light.
  • At this speed, he may begin having difficulties seeing things that are not directly in front of him, because he is now moving fast enough he is distorting light as it approaches him. But this speed isn't really enough to worry about.
  • It's when he reaches extremely close to the speed of light, where he may only be able to see things directly in front of him because he is now faster than the light of things alongside of him.

This is the most extreme representation of the Speed Force, it gives a speedster who can sustain such speeds, the capacity to move, understand, think, act and react at those speeds. Such speeds are very difficult to control and it is unlikely most speedsters can maintain them for long.

Name a time the Flash's vision is affected by his speed?

In a battle against other speedsters, the Flash's powers are pushed, often to their limits.

  • A speedster calling himself ZüM, along with a group of other superheroes (the Hyperclan) wanted to replace the Justice League, and fought the league members. Secretly, they were White Martians, each with powers capable of making them nearly as strong as Superman. Each, however, seemed to specialize in their use of their powers and ZüM, specialized in Speed.
  • The speedster, ZüM and Wally West (the Flash of the era) had an epic battle which showed the Flash was capable of manipulating his own energy using the Speed Force and transferring that energy to an opponent.

  • The Flash mentions when he is traveling at relativistic speeds his vision is compressed so he can only see things directly in front of him. This also means only someone who can react to relativistic effects (like dodging a beam of light) can see or react to him. Zum learned this the hard way.
  • The technique he used to defeat ZüM was dubbed the "Infinite Mass Punch." The mass he channels from approaching the speed of light* would make his fist incredibly massive and capable of transferring enough energy to rival a small nuclear explosion, if the Flash wanted it to. All of this sidestepping of the laws of physics are courtesy of the Speed Force.
  • *Physics Fact: objects made of matter cannot reach the speed of light because the laws of relativity indicate, they would gain infinite mass and would require infinite energy to move them. Thus no object made of matter can reach the speed of light. (Which has weird implications for the Flash, but that's a Flash Fact for another day.)

In summary:

It's safe to say, when the Flash is doing his job from day to day, he doesn't have to worry about not being able to see things around him.

  • The Speed Force protects him from dangerous environmental conditions brought on from his use of super-speed.
  • It increases his awareness, reflexes and reaction time to compensate for his increased superhuman speed. His brain activity must be improved billions of times in order to keep up with his superhuman activities.
  • His awareness has some limitations, since the faster he moves, the less he is able to take in, particularly if he reaches speeds that are a percentage of the speed of light. The closer he gets to the speed of light, the less he should theoretically be able to see.
  • The Flash rarely gets to speeds where he worries about relativistic effects like compressed photons and the like, so there is nothing to worry about as the Flash fights the forces of evil.

However…

The Flash does have feats where he is faster than light. In many cases, much faster than light.

Over the decades, the Flash has been shown to be faster than a beam of light which means he must somehow act as a form of energy capable of moving faster than light. (In comics, its possible, in reality, it isn't. At least not yet.)

  • In this interstellar race, Wally is running many times faster than light. He is moving so fast, he is able to see the boundary to the Speed Force (the pretty rainbow colored wall). This barrier is where all speedsters who can access the Speed Force can end up if they travel too fast…(whatever too fast means for a particular speedster, it varies for each one). Objects which travel into the Speed Force enter a kind of nirvana or heaven and are reluctant to return to the world.

A last minute save by Krackl keeps Wally West from falling into the Speed Force.

  • In those comics where the Flash moves faster than light, we are forced to accept that somehow, the Speed Force compensates the Flash for the information he should no longer be able to see visibly and allows him to continue operating at peak efficiency.
  • There are too many feats to mention where this happens, so we, as readers, are forced to accept that the Flash and his abilities are the stuff of comics and pseudo-science, powered strictly by imagination.

There's nothing wrong with using your imagination. The great scientist and thinker Albert Einstein once said:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Just because the Flash is imaginary, doesn't mean you can't learn a Flash Fact or two related to speed, motion, momentum, relativity, gravity, mass and the other laws and effects of physics the Flash gets to thumb his nose at.

Lucky guy, eh? Now who's running to Italy to get me a pizza?

My son asked if The Flash moves so fast, how can he see things. How can I easily explain this?