The Science of Superheroes

Book of Joe has an interesting link about a college course called The Science of Superheroes. If you are too lazy to click over to his blog here is a short excerpt that I grabbed.

In lessons that cover Aquaman to X-Men, Dennin’s 14 students learned to distinguish science fiction from science fact.

Science fantasy: Gamma rays turned 98-pound weakling Bruce Banner into a raging green giant called the Incredible Hulk.

Science reality: Intense gamma radiation would have killed Banner. However, Hulkification could be achieved with anabolic steroids and DNA from a jellyfish.

Students also considered the feasibility of Superman and the Flash traveling faster than the speed of light. Most scientists say such a feat would violate the laws of physics. Others theorize that traveling faster than light could reverse time.

Another lesson examined the gadgets on Bruce Wayne’s bat belt, such as a miniature telephone and torch and knockout-gas capsules. Many of the devices that seemed farfetched when Batman was created decades ago are now available.Students also scrutinized Superman’s home planet, Krypton. According to comic-book lore, gravity on Krypton was so much stronger than Earth’s that Clark Kent had superhuman strength here. But in real life, gravity that strong would prevent a rocket from escaping a planet’s atmosphere.

Dennin, 39, a UCI physics professor, said the goal of the seminar is to use pop culture as a hook to introduce such concepts as black holes, cloning, life on other planets, quantum mechanics and Newtonian physics.

“Many students have a fear of science,” Dennin said, “but if they come at it from a different angle, they sometimes find out they’re interested in the subject and take more classes.”

I have comments about a number of things, but I’ll limit it to one for now. The story says that the class contends that a rocket ship could not have escaped Krypton’s gravity field. My issue is this, Krypton was a planet in which the civilization was highly advanced. Maybe an Earth made rocket ship would have problems, but a Kryptonian is a different animal altogether. Ha hah!

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  1. Jack's Shack April 7, 2006 at 12:17 am


    Your grandfather sounds like a smart guy.


    Thongs and codpieces are all the rage and much more practical than a closetful of shoes. 😉


    That is a good question, I say no.

  2. PsychoToddler April 6, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    Is there a lecture which finally addresses whether Iron Man wore underwear or not?

  3. StepIma April 6, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    Sounds liked they sucked the fun out of everything.

    I want to know what the scientific explanation was for how they were able to get such manly men to subvert their hormonal propensities enough to put on a codpiece or thong over a pair of tights

  4. MUST Gum Addict April 6, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    Krypton also exploded, so I would hypothesize that the actual explosion and breakup of the planet not only diminished the gravity, it had the reverse effect and helped propel Superman’s star-shaped rocket.

    Scientists know nothing. As my grandfather would say, with a wave of the hand, “eh”…

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