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The Physics of Superheroes
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James Kakalios explores the scientific plausibility of the powers and feats of the most famous superheroes -- and discovers that in many cases the comic writers got their science surprisingly right. Along the way he provides an engaging and witty commentary while introducing the lay reader to both classic and cutting-edge concepts in physics, including: What Superman's strength can tell us about the Newtonian physics of force, mass, and acceleration How Iceman's and Storm's powers illustrate the principles of thermal dynamics The physics behind the death of Spider-Man's girlfriend Gwen Stacy Why physics professors gone bad are the most dangerous evil geniuses!
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About the Author

James Kakalios is a professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota, where he has taught since 1988, and where his class "Everything I Needed to Know About Physics I Learned from Reading Comic Books" is a popular freshman seminar. He received his Ph.D. in 1985 from the University of Chicago, and has been reading comic books for much longer.

Reviews

Bam! Pow! Kakalios (physics, Univ. of Minnesota) delivers a one-two punch: real science and good fun. Does "leaping tall buildings in a single bound" have anything to do with Newton's three laws of motion? You bet, and Kakalios explains the connection in his lively, humorous style. He looks at momentum, friction, special relativity, properties of matter, light, magnetism, atomic physics, quantum mechanics, and solid-state physics as demonstrated by his favorite comic book heroes-including Superman, Flash, and the Invisible Woman-and shows that much of the time, comic book physics is accurate (though he exposes the bloopers, too). The book's a treat for anyone interested in physical science and can be enjoyed readily by math phobes and those with little science education, since Kakalios explains it all with clear detail and a good measure of fun. Highly recommended for small academic libraries and the science collections of public libraries of all sizes. [Popular science buffs may also enjoy Laurence Krauss's The Physics of Star Trek and Barry Parker's forthcoming Death Rays, Jet Packs, Stunts & Supercars: The Fantastic Physics of Film's Most Celebrated Secret Agent (Johns Hopkins, Nov.).-Ed.]-Denise Dayton, Jaffrey Grade Sch., NH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

This terrific book demonstrates a number of important points. First, a subject that everyone "knows" is difficult and boring can, in the hands of a master teacher, be both exciting and fun. Second, it's a myth that only people particularly adept at mathematics can understand and enjoy physics. Third, superhero comic books have socially redeeming qualities. By combining his love for physics with his love of comic books, University of Minnesota physicist Kakalios has written a book for the general reader covering all of the basic points in a first-level college physics course and is difficult to put down. Among many other things, Kakalios uses the basic laws of physics to "prove" that gravity must have been 15 times greater on Krypton than on Earth; that Spiderman's girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, died because his webbing stopped her too abruptly after she plunged from the George Washington Bridge; and that when the Flash runs, he's surrounded by a pocket of air that enables him to breathe. Kakalios draws on the Atom, Iron Man, X-Men, the Ant-Man and the Hulk, among many others, to cover topics as diverse as electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, string theory and thermodynamics. That all of this is accomplished with enough humor to make you laugh aloud is an added bonus. B&w illus. Agent, Jay Mandel. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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