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Physics of Superheroes

March 1, 2010

Superhero comic books offer surprising lessons in physics.


Comic-book physics lessons…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Comic book superheroes clearly violate the laws of physics in order to possess superpowers. But University of Minnesota physicist Jim Kakalios says superheroes help him teach the subject.

JIM KAKALIOS (University of Minnesota):
I’m trying to convey the fun of physics using these superheroes, there’s an interest in them, and so I’m going to take advantage of that, to talk about the science. Spo the idea is that you take a situation that seems unrealistic, you grant the unrealistic aspect of it, and then look to see if what the characters are doing with their superpowers are then consistent with the laws of physics, and surprisingly, often enough, they are.

Not surprisingly, his classes are very popular. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.