What It Takes to Be Superman

by Laura Overdeck

You may know the famous words about Superman: “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”… but what does all of that really mean? The strength of a locomotive about 8,000 “horsepower,” where 1 horsepower can move a whopping 33,000 pounds 1 foot forward in 1 minute. Meanwhile, bullets fly more than 1,000 miles per hour, and buildings can be more than 1,000 feet tall. Even jumping over a 25-foot-tall house sounds like quite a leap!

Wee ones: If Superman could leap over your house and 3 other houses all at once, how many tall buildings did he leap in a single bound?

Little kids: If Superman leaps over a house, then a car, then a tree, then a house again to repeat the pattern…what does he leap over on his 8th jump?  Bonus: If you rounded up 8,000 horses to pull a train as hard as Superman, how would you count them up by thousands?

Big kids: We also say “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…Superman!” The highest-flying bird, the bar-headed goose, can fly 21,000 feet high. If Superman can fly 10,000 feet higher than that, how high does he fly?  Bonus: Commercial planes fly up to 45,000 feet at most. If Superman likes to fly halfway between the 21,000-foot bird and the plane, how high does he fly?

The sky’s the limit — for real: The Freedom Tower in New York City is 1776 feet tall. If Superman flies half that height in the 1st second, then half as far as that the 2nd second, then half as far as that the 3rd second, how high has he flown in 3 seconds? The numbers are pretty cool!

Answers:
Wee ones: 4 houses.

Little kids: A car.  Bonus: 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, 8,000.

Big kids: 31,000 feet.  Bonus: At 33,000 feet. If you ignore the thousands, you need the number halfway between 21 and 45. They are 45 – 21 = 24 apart, and half of that is 12, so you then add 12 to 21 to get 33 (or subtract 12 from 45).

The sky’s the limit – for real: 1554 feet. He flies 888 feet the 1st second, then another 444 feet, then another 222 feet.

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