The Uncanny Physics of Superheroes

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI went to see James Kakalios from the University of Minnesota speak at the Union tonight, and man, it was a fun presentation. He was really funny, in a good comic-book-nerd kind of way. I tried to write down funny things he said, which might not be that great out of context, but maybe they’ll work.

  • (a crook is using physics to find the batcave) “It’s not really explained why he wanted to find the Bat cave; it’s just understood – if you’re a criminal, you want that address.”
  • “When I used to teach physics using levers, inclined planes and pullies, my students would always complain, ‘When am I going to actually use this in real life?’ But now that I teach using superhero comics as examples, nobody ever complains. Apparently, they all have plans after graduation that involve spandex and late nights out.”
  • (referring to Krypton’s density, and how Earth’s relatively weaker gravity gives Superman his strength and jumping ability) “That’s why, when we go to the moon, we can jump over moon buildings and lift moon cars to astound the moon people.”
  • (talking about how he uses Electro and Magneto when discussing electicity and magnetism) “You’ll have to buy my book to find out which one was associated with electricy and which with magnetism.”
  • (talking about how a lot of people got their powers) “You’ll have to forgive children in the 60s if getting hit by a lightning bolt seemed like the greatest thing ever, second only to getting exposed to massive amounts of radiation.”
  • “We know he’s robbing a bank because of the large brown bag with the dollar sign on it.”
  • (referring to how two people in the crowd are explaining how Electro can climb up the side of a building) “Looking at this gives you a sense of nostalgia for the bygone era when bystanders used to routinely narrate nearby events.”
  • I picked up a copy of the book, and what I’ve read so far has been great (available on Amazon). Way better than The Science of Superheroes by Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg, a real dud that seemed to involve no research whatsoever, expressing the same level of depth any casual comic reader would have.