A Certain Scientific Analysis S: Accelerator Edition

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A Certain Scientific Railgun (and its sister series A Certain Magical Index) is set in Academy City, a town full of superpowered espers with amazing abilities. We’ve previously posted “A Certain Scientific Analysis,” a look into the science behind protagonist Mikoto Misaka’s amazing Railgun electricity powers. (Check it out here if you want to learn more about real-life railguns and how Misaka’s powers stack up!) With Railgun’s second season Railgun S, we’ll take another look into the science behind esper powers, this time of the series’ main antagonist: Academy City’s top esper, Accelerator.


Pleasure to meet you, too!


Accelerator, who shows up in A Certain Magical Index and Index II as well, is the city’s top level 5 esper and participates in a deadly experiment to try to reach the transcendent level 6. He is named for his ability, which involves… well, we’ll let him explain it. What exactly is your ability, Accelerator?


Mathematical principles have never been this creepy.


“Whether kinetic energy, amount of heat, electrical charge, or any other vector, all it has to do is touch my skin, and I can transform it.” So what exactly does this mean?

In math and physics, a vector is a quantity that has both a magnitude and a direction. To keep this short (and to avoid getting into math class territory), you can have a quantity with magnitude, which is number or size (for example, 5 apples or a liter of soda), or you can have a quantity with both magnitude and direction (three feet to the left, 70 miles per hour north). Of course, only certain types of quantities really make sense with vectors—it doesn’t really mean anything to say 5 apples down.


In physics, there are plenty of properties that can be measured in vectors—velocity (speed with direction), force, electric and magnetic fields, etc. Accelerator can thus transform any of these quantities— for example, the speed and direction of an oncoming bullet. Technically, in Index he says that it needs to touch his skin, but it’s more likely that it has to touch his AIM field (the fictional invisible energy field that surrounds all espers), since he’s shown to be able to deflect objects flying towards him before they actually make contact with his skin. (It should be noted that a vector is just a construct that helps us understand these phenomena; there’s no such thing as a vector in real life, and you can’t “touch” a vector. Vector transformation is just the best way that we as intelligent humans can comprehend Accelerator’s specific set of telekinetic abilities.)


There are several applications of this power in the Index/Railgun series, for example:

–        Deflecting the railroad rails that Misaka throws at him using her Electromaster abilities

–        Reversing the direction of blood flow of Misaka 10031’s body, killing her

–        Creating an immense tornado by changing the velocity of wind


The most practical and oft-used application of his ability is indeed the acceleration from which he gets his name—changing the velocity vector to make objects slow down, speed up, change direction, etc.


I think we’ve had enough pics of Accelerator being creepy. Here, have a cute Misaka 9982.


Misaka 10031 originally thinks that Accelerator’s ability is just Reflection, the ability to reverse the direction of vectors coming at him. While this is certainly part of the Accelerator skillset, it’s only one small part, and Accelerator apparently automatically reflects vectors from his AIM field without even thinking. Not only would this mean that objects flying at him will never reach him, but other common natural phenomena wouldn’t affect him. For example:


–        Light would never hit him, making him invisible (and it would never reach his eyes, so he can’t see either)

–        Sound waves would never reach his ears, so he wouldn’t be able to hear anything

–        Oxygen (really, any air) traveling towards him in the atmosphere would be repelled, so he’d be stuck in a vacuum unable to breathe

–        Gravitational force wouldn’t affect him, so as the earth revolves and rotates, Accelerator isn’t attached to it and doesn’t travel with its movement through space, so he should have shot off the surface of the earth (relative to our point of reference) and would probably be floating somewhere in the vast expanses of the universe


Of course, none of this is actually true for Accelerator in the anime, and the explanation is that supposedly he consciously allows these things to affect him—he lets some light, sound, and oxygen past his AIM field, and he makes gravitational forces keep him on the ground. (Of course, this all has to apply when he’s sleeping too, since, for example, he doesn’t asphyxiate while unconscious.) Incidentally, according to the novels, his apparent albinism is a result of his power—because limited UV rays reach his skin, the cells don’t undergo much production of melanin, the pigment that makes skin, eyes, and hair dark.


(…Well, this actually isn’t quite how it works. True albinism doesn’t have anything to do with sun exposure, but is a mutation that simply prevents melanin production. Sure, some melanogenesis is activated by sun exposure, and that’s why we tan in sunlight, but most of it is basal and genetic, which is what gives us different skin colors at birth and throughout life. If Accelerator genetically has darker hair, lack of sun exposure won’t change that.)


Another interesting note: exposure to UV-B radiation also induces the body to produce Vitamin D, which in turn may help production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps keep us happy. Accelerator’s power could actually be a major reason why he’s so angry all the time!


Anyway, back to esper powers—so Accelerator is pretty much OP. Any physical attack you throw at him bounces off, and it doesn’t even matter if it’s faster than his reaction time: shoot a laser at him, and he’ll block it unconsciously before he even knows it hit him. We figure that if you’re talking to him and employ some kind of sonic weapon at him at the same time from the same direction, you could catch him by surprise while he’s consciously allowing your speech sound waves in, in order to listen intently to your long monologue. Of course, Accelerator is definitely the monologuing type, not the listening-to-monologue type, so I don’t think we can count on this as a surefire solution.


So what’s left? Are there any espers that can beat him? In the series, we see that Misaka’s definitely outclassed; her power’s all about electromagnetism, and that’s all vectors all the time. Who else stands a chance against Accelerator?


Well, of course there’s Toma’s Imagine Breaker, which cancels any kind of supernatural power, and you can see how that plays out in Railgun S. Aside from cheap nerfs like this, what’s left?


One interesting esper that comes to mind is one of the robbers in season 1 that Kuroko and Uiharu encounter as children in a flashback. With his ability, “Equal Speed,” anything that he throws will continue moving forward at the same velocity no matter what’s in its way, until he releases his power or it’s destroyed. The small metal balls that he throws are able to break through glass windows and a thick metal bank gate without stopping or slowing down.


Pretty cool power for a guy who doesn’t even get a name!


In theory, since this ability explicitly states that the velocity vector can’t be transformed, perhaps these balls could bypass Accelerator’s AIM field and reach him. In reality this is sort of a situation of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, since Accelerator’s power also explicitly states that he has control over all vectors. Given that Accelerator is the strongest esper in Academy City and Mr. Equal Speed isn’t even important enough to have a name, we’re inclined to believe Accelerator’s vector powers are stronger and he’ll win anyway. And even if he doesn’t, the metal balls can stop if they’re destroyed, which is how Misaka defeats the robber in Kuroko’s flashback.


Speaking of Kuroko, Misaka’s highly affectionate roommate, what about her teleportation ability? She moves herself and objects she’s touching from one point to another essentially instantaneously, so there’s no velocity vector involved in her powers. While teleportation is really great for getting from place to place and escaping, the way Kuroko uses it can also be quite deadly.


Cute and deadly is kind of a thing in the Railgun series.


This one’s a little bit more of a gray area, and it really depends on how Kuroko’s powers are described. How instantaneous are we talking? Do the objects exist somewhere else in the interim when they’re being teleported? Is her teleportation just moving objects from point A to point B extremely fast through time and space? It’s not clear. To be completely technical, and this is a bit of a cheap shot, technically, displacement, which is the short distance traveled between two positions, can be expressed in a vector. If you teleport one kilometer to the east instantaneously, there’s both magnitude and direction involved there. So Accelerator might have control over the teleportation displacement vector anyway. Perhaps he’d just repel the object being teleported away to a new location. Perhaps it would just never work. Again, extremely unfair, but that’s kind of the whole point of Accelerator’s powers.


These are all the ways that we could really think of challenging Accelerator, and it’s pretty debatable how effective these techniques would be. Of course, if we’re talking about less physical abilities, like certain types of magic or Misaki Shokuhou’s “Mental Out” mind control ability for example, there may be some other possibilities, but the explanation of how these powers work is a little too unclear to determine this, at least from the information from the show. That said, you might have some ideas on scientific ways to defeat Accelerator, or an unusual application of some other esper’s ability. If so, we’d love to hear it! Reply to this blog entry with some of your theories.


We’ll leave you with one more observation before concluding. Incidentally, just as the term for the rate of change of velocity is acceleration, the rate of change of acceleration is called: jerk.


So, now you know. What’d you think of this article? Would you like to see more like it? Be sure to place your orders for A Certain Scientific Railgun S today so that you can learn even more! Click here.