Science

Science Behind the Fiction

It is the modern dream to live in the Pixar-verse. You can find there talking toys, friendly monsters, lovable robots, and down-to-earth superheroes.

Not to mention the fully realized self-driving cars, if you can get around the horror of sitting inside Lightning McQueen\’s brain case. You can attach store-bought balloons to your house and abandon this life for greener pastures and talking dogs.

Anything is possible. Of course, the Pixar-verse life requires a certain suspension of disbelief. One must be willing to accept the inner lives of toys and cars despite a complete lack of any measurable biological processes.

You have to be willing to ignore the undeniable fact that Nemo\’s dad, Marlin, would have begun transitioning into his mom almost the moment that barracuda finished licking its lips. You must ignore the knowledge that Carl was more than nine-million balloons short of actually achieving lift for his house. Most of this is forgivable as the story in question takes place in a world that is clearly not our own, with the notable exception of Up.

There may be human characters but they, more often than not, take a back seat to the central story. But when it comes to The Incredible, we\’re playing in a more familiar ballpark. It\’s a very human story/intention that plays out in a familiar world — if it\’s not our own, then very close to it. For Example: FROZONE He just wanted to go bowling. But being friends with Bob Parr comes at a cost and that cost sometimes means donning an old suit to cool things down. Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) has the unique ability to render ice from moisture in the environment, including moisture from within his own body.

There are a couple of major hurdles Frozone would have to overcome in order to use his ability in a worthwhile way. First is the amount of usable moisture present in a given environment. This is variable based on location, air temperature, and other factors. Absolute humidity — the total mass of water vapor present in the air — can range from almost nothing to 30 grams per cubic meter.

We want to give Frozone the best possible chance to win the day, so let\’s assume when the going gets tough, the air is fully saturated. At 30 grams per cubic meter, Frozone would need to pull all of the moisture from roughly eight cubic meters of air to collect a single cup of water. We don\’t have concrete numbers on the size of the ice bridges he skates around on, but it seems clear he’d have to pull water from a whole lot of area to build even a small structure.

Depending on his range, he might be able to pull from clouds, which would offer considerably more material to work with, ranging upward of two-billion pounds of water. Having acquired the requisite material to work with, the next hurdle is organizing the water in a usable way. Simply freezing the moisture present in the air at its current location would result in so much diamond dust, the result of moisture in the air freezing directly into ice crystals.

This phenomenon happens in very cold temperatures and casts a sort of glitter over the sky, which can result in solar halos. There’s no good explanation for Frozone being able to move water or ice from one location to another to actually build something outside of some sort of telekinesis, so we\’ll have to let that slide.

What’s more important is how he could so drastically alter the temperature of matter to begin with. Despite what your body might tell you on chilly winter nights, there\’s really no such thing as cold. In the same way that darkness is merely the absences of light, cold is just the absence of heat. There have few ways to cool things down but all of them involve moving energy away from the thing you want cooled. When you touch something cold, you aren’t sensing the cold seeping into you, you\’re sensing heat wicking out of you, toward the cold thing. Even today humans haven\’t found ways to influence temperature. Refrigerators and air conditioning are just two of the common ways we’ve found to manipulate the temperature within a closed system. Neither of these, though, is capable of drastically and immediately reducing the temperature so as to induce flash freezing. In fact, in terms of absolute temperature, our common technologies barely move the needle. Luckily, scientists are never satisfied with good enough.

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