On the eve of the release of The Dark Knight, an associate professor of kinesiology and neuroscience at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, E. Paul Zehr, has written a book that looks at just how realistic Bruce Wayne's night job really is. The results may actually surprise you.
Here's the most surprising thing: Being Batman isn't actually impossible. Zehr told Scientific American that, while the various injuries that Batman suffers through on a regular basis may be unrealistic - even going so far as to suggest that his brooding darkness may the result of repeated head trauma, which makes a lot of sense - it is, nonetheless, possible to train to be your very own Dark Knight:
You could train somebody to be a tremendous athlete and to have a significant martial arts background, and also to use some of the gear that he has, which requires a lot of physical prowess. Most of what you see there is feasible to the extent that somebody could be trained to that extreme. We're seeing that kind of thing in less than a month in the Olympics... If you found the percentage of billionaires and multiply that by the percentage of people who become Olympic decathletes, you could probably get a close estimate [of potential Batmans in the world]. The really important thing is just how much a human being really can do. There's such a huge range of performance and ability you can tap into.
Of course, any real Batman would have a limited lifespan:
Somewhere around age 50 to 55, he should probably retire. His performance is going down. He's always facing younger adversaries. That is well at the end of when he's going to be able to defend himself and be able to not have to deal that lethal force... Keeping in mind that being Batman means never losing: If you look at consecutive events where professional fighters have to defend their titles-Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Ultimate Fighters-the longest period you're going to find is about two to three years. That dovetails nicely with the average career for NFL running backs. It's about three years. (That's the statistic I got from the NFL Players Association Web site.) The point is, it's not very long. It's really hard to become Batman in the first place, and it's hard to maintain it when you get there.
Of course, none of this takes into account that whole "World's Greatest Detective" thing he has going for him, either... Maybe it's better if we all just take it easy and let someone else - someone fictional - do all the heavy-lifting for us.
Dark Knight Shift: Why Batman Could Exist—But Not for Long [Scientific American]