The Man of Steel Limitations – Can Superman Boil Away an Ocean?
With the upcoming Superman movie produced by film-maker Zach Snyder, searches for the Man of Steel are currently at an all-time high. Since the movie-adapted comic book versions of some of DC rival Marvel Comics’ greatest superheroes have blown away the box office, it isn’t a leap to think that the greatest hero of them all will reign supreme once tickets go on sale.
Although nearly everyone is familiar with Superman and the range of things he can do, have you ever wondered whether there’s a practical limit to his power level? The general consensus is that Superman’s power level increases or decreases to meet whatever threat he is currently facing; galactic menaces see him able to fly through the sun virtually unscathed – whereas much weaker (though still super-strong) characters have been seen giving Clark a beating. Nonetheless, it is interesting to consider, using available sources, some practical – or at least arguable – limits to his bevy of super powers.
Can Superman Boil Away an Ocean?
Easily Clark’s most powerful distance attack, his heat vision is also the most taxing – depending on how he uses it. Capable of using it as a laser-scalpel to penetrate anything, or as a blast of nuclear furnace heat to knock a powerful foe backward (Clark has hinted once that he fears using his heat vision on weaker enemies because it might kill them outright), and finally as a sheet of wide-beamed destruction that can scorch a battlefield. It is this last one that visibly taxes him, as he is apparently employing the full force of his solar energy conversion abilities into a red blast that’s hotter than the surface of the sun.
With all that said, we can see it’s clearly possible for Superman to boil away massive amounts of water. But how massive? An ocean is a truly gargantuan quantity of H2O, and this may boil down to a battle of sheer stamina more than ability. If Superman doesn’t get it done before sundown, it looks like the W goes to the Pacific. To make the problem more tractable, let’s say that Kal can pour the heat on for about sixteen hours at full capacity. Given that the surface temperature of the sun is about 10,000 degrees as far as the photosphere goes, and around two million degrees as far as the corona (which is actually right above the photosphere) goes, we’ll use the coronal temperature (10,000 degrees seems a bit… low for the mountain-mover).
Now we take the size of the Pacific Ocean: roughly 660 million cubic kilometers. Superman would need to be able vaporize over 11,000 cubic kilometers per second in order to accomplish this feat in 16 hours. Basically, his two million degree heat vision would need to flash-boil the amount of water comprising Lake Superior every single second – nonstop – for over two-thirds of a day. Frankly, with the given time range, that seems a bit much even for him. But he could probably do it if you gave him longer.