Sciencing the Shit Out of Batman's Remote Electrical Control gun

Batman in the Arkham series doesn't kill anyone, supposedly. However, the science behind the REC might say otherwise.

Thanks to the Telltale Batman game combined with all the DC movie news, including Suicide Squad and the Justice League, the Dark Knight and his story has been on the minds of geeks everywhere. Of course, one of the biggest controversies regarding the Bat in Batman v Superman was just how lethal Ben Affleck’s Batman was. We saw that he outright gunned down some people and others he clearly splattered against a wall. However, we know that the Arkham series Batman was clearly supposed to be a non-lethal Batman. The dude even has rubber pellets instead of bullets in his Batmobile-slash-tank.

However, there is another far more dangerous weapon in Batman’s arsenal: The REC. Perhaps the reason the Remote Electrical Charge gun was placed as evidence in the Gotham City Police Station was because it was the most lethal gadget that Batman carried. Perhaps it was a mistake for our non-lethal Batman to pick up this device again, because for every person that comes in contact with this device’s projectile charge could be dead.

How could the Batman’s Remote Electrical Charge gun be lethal? Let’s science the shit out of it to find out.

Lexicon of ‘lectricity

The first place to start is obviously with electricity. We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t put a finger in a light socket or take a toaster into the bathtub, but do you know the science behind why? You might have also heard that it’s not the volts that will kill you, it’s the amps. And that statement is also mostly correct, too. However, there is a caveat -- you need a certain amount of voltage to carry the amperage where it needs to go. Having worked technical support for one of the leading companies making emergency backup systems for datacenters, this is kind of in my wheelhouse. Let me give you a quick lesson in what all the terminology means and how they relate to each other.

Volts is the amount of energy used to push the current of electrons through a conductor. For our example we can say that voltage is how much resistance the electrical charge can push through. Electrical resistance is measured in ohms, although I’m not really going to talk about that. Current, or the number of electrons that pass through a conductor, is measured in amps (A). Another term that will pop up will be watts. Watts is the volts times the amps minus the resistance. I will not use the watts in my examples; to simplify the calculations, I will use volt-amps (VA), which is simply volts times amps or the total amount of current need to power a device.

Electricity and the human body

Instead of burying the lede, let me tell you exactly what it would take to kill someone with electricity. It’s simpler than you think. To stop someone’s heart, it only takes 5 amps held for less than a second. That means your wall socket, which is 15 Amps (US) could stop your heart, if there is no resistance. However, it only takes 75 mA (0.075 A) to cause ventricular fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat. And to stop someone breathing, it’s only 50 mA. To stop someone in their tracks, try shooting them with only 9 mA.

And the time is important, too. If someone is shocked for 2 seconds with 50 mA, it will likely kill him. To put it into perspective, tasers only conduct 2.1 mA. And we’ve all seen how people are affected by tasers.

Voltage, although not exactly what kills a person, does play a role in the electrocution process. Remember, that I said voltage is the push that gets the electrons through the conductor. Well, it does take, thankfully, take quite a bit of voltage to penetrate dry human skin. At 30 volts, electrical current starts to become dangerous, but it takes as much as 450 volts for skin’s resistance to break down completely. That’s why tasers run at (no joke) 50,000 V. All skin resistance is broken down and the electrical current can move freely around the body at that voltage, but tasers have been known to cause some pretty bad burns.

Electrical remote control

To bring this back to Batman’s Remote Electrical Control gun, the Dark Knight will have to keep the amperage extremely low -- but thankfully, he has quite a bit of voltage to work with, up to 50,000. However, we know that it takes a lot of electrical power to run some of the items that Batman is tasked to run in a game like Arkham Knight. Specifically, I’m thinking about the elevator.

The leading manufacturer of elevators in the United States is a company that I believe most people have heard of: Otis. Although most of its elevators need to have a dedicated maintenance room with 30 A and 250 V of electricity running into it, it does have a single model of elevator that runs on 125 V at 15 A. We will use this anomaly as our basis because it represents the best case scenario. If Batman’s REC was to power this elevator, it would take 1875 VA to make it run.

I’m not going to get into the fact that it takes constant power to make something like an elevator to run, but 1875 VA does give us a place to start. We know that Batman’s REC outputs at least 1875 VA; it has to in order to start the elevator.

The elevator takes 125 V and 15 A to run, but we need 50 kV to transform the REC into a stun gun. That actually is possible with a device we call an inverter. You have one of these devices sitting next to you right now. The power supply in your computer is an inverter. This device can exchange voltage for amperage, but the ultimate VA needs to be constant. Here’s the simple math:

1875 VA = 125 V • 15 A = 50,000 V • x A
x = 0.0375 or 37.5 mA

All right, Batman, your taser is about 80 times as powerful a regular taser, but if you keep the jolt under one second, then the thug will be fine. Let’s check the footage. In the GIF above, I count almost a full 2 seconds that the bad guy remains electrocuted. Damn. Sorry, dude, you dead. And Batman just broke his non-lethal vow.

But that’s my take. Science isn’t science unless it’s tested. What are your thoughts? Do you think Batman just killed someone? How would you science the shit out of this? Let me know in the comments below.

Published Aug. 12th 2016
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