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One of the best things about Christopher Nolan`s Batman trilogy is how realistic he makes the caped crusader feel. Unlike the Joel Schumacher or even the Tim Burton versions, Nolan`s world seems grounded in some level of scientific fact. But just how close is science to actually being able to replicate some of the Dark Knight`s gadgetry?
In the movies, Batman`s cape is made of a fictional material called "memory cloth," which uses an electrical charge to make the cape stiffen to allow for gliding, and then return to a more fabric-like state. The gliding ability of wingsuits are already a real thing. The trick is getting that awesome cape-to-glider transition.
Sadly, it looks like this one is closer to an invention of Mr. Nolan`s imagination than actual science at this point. That isn`t to say that researchers aren`t working around the clock to make your Bat-dreams come true. The film crew working on the Batman costume actually got some help from the British Ministry of Defense, who instructed the costumers on a technique called "electrostatic flocking." The cape was made of a nylon parachute fabric, brushed with glue, and embedded with a fine, hair-thin material. The crew then ran an electric charge through it, giving the cape that distinctive look. This time around it was for aesthetic purposes, but a similar principle could one day be used to create functional glider capes.
As for the theoretical flying capabilities of such a contraption, physics students at the University of Leicester determined in their paper titled "Trajectory of a Falling Bat," that Batman could actually glide pretty far. Unfortunately, the landing is a bit trickier, as the researchers estimated he would be reaching speeds of up to 50 mph; which is not exactly a safe landing speed, even for the caped crusader. The students recommended possible fixes including extending his wing span, or even utilizing jet propulsion to slow his landing. I don`t know about you, but a jet-powered Batman sounds pretty awesome.
Speaking of jets, how about Batman`s tank-like super car? Strapping a jet engine to a vehicle probably isn`t particularly safe, but there`s certainly a precedent for it.
The military is even developing lightweight tanks designed to be both maneuverable and durable, such as the British FV101 Scorpion. Defense contractors at BAE Systems even released plans for a potential military prototype directly inspired by the Batman films.
The Grapple Gun
This one is tricky, because while motorized grappling hooks do exist, the amount of cable required to haul a Batman-sized person up a wall wouldn`t fit inside a compartment that small. Scientists would need to develop a much thinner substitute for the rope that is normally used for grappling hooks in order to make it into a portable solution.
Batman`s suit in the Nolan trilogy is a modified "advanced infantry armor system." In the film`s world, the suit was developed for the military, and while very effective, was deemed too costly for wide distribution. The suit`s base layer is similar to a real-life SCUBA suit, regulating Batman`s body temperature in extreme environments.
Obviously, two-wheeled motor vehicles are a real thing, but what makes Batman`s unique is the in-wheel engine, which not too many auto manufacturers are actively pursuing. The bike is also recognizable for its lack of steering handles, instead being steered by the leaning of Batman`s body. That`s not to mention the small fortune in crazy weaponry strapped to it.