Physics Colloquium: The Uncanny Physics of Superhero Comic Books
Thursday, February 4, 2021
3:30 PM-4:30 PM
James Kakalios, PhD,
University of Minnesota,
School of Physics and Astronomy
In 2001 I created a Freshman Seminar class at the University of Minnesota entitled: "Everything I Know About Science I Learned from Reading Comic Books." This is a real physics class, that covers topics 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!
This class drew a great deal of media attention in 2002 with the release of the first Spider-Man film and led to my writing a popular science book THE PHYSICS OF SUPERHEROES. My talk will show how superhero comic books can be used to illustrate fundamental physics principles. For example, 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? Why does the Flash become heavier as he tries to run at the speed of light? All this, and the answers to such important real-life questions as how graphene saved Iron Man’s life, the chemical composition of Captain America’s shield, and who is faster: Superman or the Flash? will be discussed.
Brief Biography: (see also: www.kakalios.com)
James Kakalios is the Taylor Distinguished Professor in the University of Minnesota’s School of Physics and Astronomy. He received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago in 1985; worked as a post-doctoral research associate at the Xerox – Palo Alto Research Center; and then in 1988, having had enough of those California winters, joined the faculty of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota. His research interests include nanocrystalline and amorphous semiconductors, pattern formation in sandpiles and fluctuation phenomena in neurological systems.
His popular science book THE PHYSICS OF SUPERHEROES was published in 2005 in the U.S. and the U.K. and has been translated into six languages. The SPECTACULAR SECOND EDITION was published in November 2009, followed by THE AMAZING STORY OF QUANTUM MECHANICS in 2010. His latest book THE PHYSICS OF EVERYDAY THINGS: The Extraordinary Science Behind an Ordinary Day was published by Crown Books in May 2017.
He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and has served as the Chair (2015) of the APS
Professor Jorn Venderbos