Public Lecture: The Physics of Superheroes

James Kakalios, University of Minnesota

Public Lecture: The Physics of Superheroes

On March 15, James Kakalios presented on the physics of superheroes at the March Meeting in New Orleans, LA. Watch the video below.

James Kakalios, University of Minnesota

While scientists don't typically consult comic books when selecting research topics, innovations and technology introduced in superhero fiction can sometimes find their way off the page and into reality.

For instance, in the Fantastic Four, the Human Torch’s costume remains undamaged when he bursts into flames and Mr. Fantastic's costume returns to its original shape even after stretching like rubber. These features can be seen in real life memory materials — materials in which external structural changes can be reversed. Scientists have recreated Spider Man's wall climbing ability in "gecko tape," which mimics the same van der Waals attractive force that geckos employ through millions of microscopic hairs on their toes.

Find out all about this, as well as important topics like: Was it the fall or the webbing that killed Gwen Stacy (Spider Man’s girlfriend in the classic Amazing Spider Man #121)? What is the chemical composition of Captain America's shield?

Superhero comic books often get their science right more often than one would expect!

James KakaliosAbout James Kakalios
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 and worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the Xerox – Palo Alto Research Center before joining the faculty at Minnesota. His research interests include nanocrystalline and amorphous semiconductors and fluctuation phenomena in neurological systems. He was the chair of the APS Committee on Informing the Public, past-chair of the APS Forum on Outreach and Engaging the Public, and his efforts in physics outreach have been recognized by the 2014 AAAS Public Engagement with Science Award and the 2016 Andrew Gemant Award from the American Institute of Physics. He has been reading comic books longer than he has been studying physics.

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Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
Exhibit Hall I-1
900 Convention Center Blvd.
New Orleans, LA 70130

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