Scaling King Kong

For people with too much time on their hands — you may recall the 2019 movie Godzilla vs. Kong. Enjoying such tales requires a certain suspension of disbelief from the get-go. But the skeptical part of us may stop to wonder, just how realistic is a scaled-up gorilla?

Rhett Allain, an associate professor of physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, is someone who wondered. In “How Strong Is King Kong? And Could He Even Stand Up?” on the Wired website (https://www.wired.com/story/how-strong-is-king-kong-could-he-stand-up/?), he mathematically analyzes King Kong from the standpoint of height, weight, strength, and whether or not such a massive simian would even be able to stand.

How to go about such an examination? Take height — Professor Allain takes advantage of a scene in which Kong and Godzilla are standing on an aircraft carrier. Assuming a Nimitz-class carrier, with a published size of around 330 meters, he figures Kong at about 100 meters. Then the math gets harder for the other variables. (You’re welcome to see for yourself in the article.)

ILLUSTRATION: WIRED STAFF; WARNER BROS. PICTURES

Running through the parameters, the basic principle at work here is big things are not like small things, at least in physics. After all the calculations, he concludes such a being like Kong “…wouldn’t be just like a normal gorilla except bigger. Since he’s so massive, his arms and legs would have to be way thicker compared to his body than you would expect. He would probably look super weird with such huge arms.”

Professor Allain’s conclusions are consistent with other accounts I have read. For example, those giant mutant insects that supposedly could arise from nuclear tests? The metabolism of such scaled-up bodies would generate way more heat, and animals with exoskeletons have no heat-dissipating mechanisms. Thus, there is no way they could exist.

But perhaps that misses the point. After all, these are just fanciful stories. As Professor Allain says in the final line of his analysis of Kong’s body, “And this is exactly why he doesn’t look like that. It would ruin the fun of the whole movie.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.