Public Lecture: The Physics of Superheroes

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!