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American Physical Society
Physics from science fiction to science fact
Austin, TX - How much force is required to leap a building in a single bound? How strong is the gravity on Superman's home planet? Can outfielders tell where a ball is going to go by the sound it makes when it collides with a bat? Is teleportation possible? Is physical truth stranger than science fiction?
The entertainment industry has exposed us to many exciting events, both real and fictitious, from superheroes in comic books to science fiction in movies to remarkable feats in sports. On the evening of Thursday, March 6, the general public is invited to hear three prominent physicists compare these events to the known laws of physics. The event occurs as a highlight of the largest physics meeting in the world, held by the American Physical Society.
The session, "The Physics of Comics, Baseball and Hollywood: Sense and Nonsense in the Entertainment World," will feature talks by physicists Lawrence Krauss, Robert Adair and James Kakalios.
Kakalios, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota, has attracted media attention lately because of his unorthodox use of comic books in his physics classes.
"Superhero comic books from the 1960s to today often get their science right," Kakalios said. He will discuss some of the lessons he uses, including how strong Spider-Man's silk would need to be, and how frequently the Flash, who runs at super speeds, would need to eat.
Adair, author of "The Physics of Baseball," will discuss some of the information processing that batters and fielders use during game play. Much of it is instinctual; the decision to hit a fast ball must be made with information from the first 15 feet of the ball's flight. In addition, mechanisms adopted by Little Leaguers to catch fly balls are similar to those used by predators tracking their prey.
Krauss is the author of the best-selling book, "The Physics of Star Trek," and will argue that Hollywood does a good job of priming young people to learn physics, and that the real world is actually more interesting than that of science fiction. He plans to use examples from the popular television series "The X-Files," and, of course, "Star Trek."
The session is free and open to the public, and will be held from 7-9 p.m., Thursday, March 6, in Ballroom A of the Austin Convention Center.