The Physics of Superheroes (book, 2006, James Kakalios)


From SFX 141.

FOUR STARS

James Kakalios/Gotham Books/365pages

Real science made fun!

Despite the “science” in “Science Fiction” there’s probably a fair few of you reading this sentence right now who are struck with dread at the thought of a science class. This book is written for you people (and me, as it happens).

Kakalios, a physics lecturer, here describes basic physics principles in a manner that won’t turn you off, showing in the process that you don’t have to have even one bunsen burner in sight in order to deliver a valuable lesson.

Each chapter describes a different physical law or theory drawn from both Classical and Quantum Physics by referring to the antics of a costumed crime-fighter. Every wondered how Ant Man and The Atom’s powers might work, or how they differ? How many cheeseburgers the Flash would have to eat in order to run as fast as he does? It’s all here. Quantum mechanics described by reference to Kitty Pryde, electromagnetism explained thanks to Magneto. He even explains mysteries of momentum with reference to Gwen Stacy, clearing up whether it was Spider-man or The Green Goblin who was responsible for her death in the process!

Written in a light style, the book reads as if it were being spoken into your brain by a fast talking New York cabbie (with a little help from Psylocke). This is a man who loves both physics and comics, and it shines through.

However, stay away if you are actually a bona fide scientist, this is too simple for you.

Did you know?

Kakalios works at the University of Minnesota, where he researches “the elucidation of the electronic and optical properties of amorphous semiconductors” – bit more complex than the physics in his book.

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