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The Uncanny Physics of Superhero Comic Books – James Kakalios

Date: Thu. November 12th, 2009, 4:15 pm-5:15 pm
Location: Rockefeller 301

While it is not quite true that one can learn physics from superhero comic books, it is the motivation for a Freshman Seminar class I teach at the University of Minnesota entitled: “Everything I Know About Science I Learned from Reading Comic Books”. This class covers everything from Isaac Newton to the transistor, but there’s not an inclined plane or pulley in sight. Rather, ALL the examples come from superhero comic books, and as much as possible, those cases where the superheroes get their physics right! For example, have you ever wondered how strong you would have to be to “leap a tall building in a single bound?” Was it “the fall” or “the webbing” that killed Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man’s girlfriend in the classic Amazing Spider-Man # 121? How does Kitty Pryde from the X-Men comics and movies use quantum mechanics to walk through walls? All this, and the answers to such important real life questions as the chemical composition of Captain America’s shield, and who is faster: Superman or the Flash? will be discussed. Superhero comic books often get their science right more often than one would expect.

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