Thursday, November 16, 2006

Interview: James Kakalios

Newsarama has posted an interesting interview with James Kakalios, the physics professor who has written The Physics of Superheroes. In the classroom and in his new book, Kakalios examines the scientific basis--or lack thereof--behind the superpowers of some of history's most noteworthy comic heroes. Considering this premise, it's not surprising the the fastest man alive is one of his favorites. Kakalios spends much of the interview discussing what we'd call Flash Facts, incorporating references to the Silver Age as well as Geoff Johns' recent run.

James Kakalios is a comic book nerd but he’s one with a secret identity. He is a physics professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota. That means when people are arguing in a comic book store about whether The Flash could outrace Superman, Kakalios might have a plausible scientific answer. Now Kakalios has taken his years worth of useful and useless knowledge and turned it into the very funny and informative book, The Physics of Superheroes...

"Nearly without exception, the superpowers themselves violate the laws of physics. You just cannot run at super speed. You cannot stretch your body like a rubber band. So rather than just go around like a grump and say, 'Well this is impossible and that could never happen, and what’s the deal with the Hulk’s purple pants anyway?' What we do is we say, 'Okay. Let’s give them a suspension of disbelief. Let’s say you get one miracle invention from the laws of nature that accounts for the superpowers and then are what they’re shown doing in the stories consistent with actual physics?' Frequently the answer is yes and especially in some cases the Silver Age is just great for this. John Broome and Gardner Fox were writing stories at DC Comics, edited by Julie Schwartz, and they were making a real effort to try to put science in there. They were always coming up with a new and innovative application of the superpower because the Flash is fighting Captain Cold yet again. That’s what we do in scientific research. "

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