December 15, 2006

The Physics of Superman Returns

Have you seen Superman Returns? I watched it for the first time tonight, and I thought it was pretty decent, but with all that physics still bumping around in my head after finals, I made a nerdy observation of this scene (not the best quality, but you get the idea):

Superman lifts half of a giant yacht out of the water, broken in two by a spire of rock (the movie could have been called Superman Hefts; the guy spends the whole movie lifting bigger and bigger objects). The boat is sinking straight down, perpendicular to the water, broken side up. He grips the yacht by one of the protruding beams at the break point, and flies upward, toward the sky. My question is, wouldn't his antigravitational force pushing down on the boat cancel out the force he was applying to lift it out of the water?

I know it's a silly question. He's Superman and he flies and he's not necessarily bound to the laws of physics, but I am curious. It wouldn't really be an issue if he was pushing the boat upward from bottom, but he was flying upward while gripping the vessel, simultaneously applying force upward and downward at more or less the same point.

I'm no physicist. Anyone have any ideas (besides "It's just a movie, Jeremy.")?

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