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  • physics of superheroes

    I'm reading this book, which presents real physics in an interesting way. I wish something like this had been available when I was in school.

    The book mentions a few superheroes I never knew, like Ant-Man and Ironman. Who was your favorite superhero?


    Allan Ostling

    Phoenix, Arizona

  • #2
    I don't know if you've finished it yet Allan, but it's a really well-done book. He starts with the "old" SuperMan and calculates how much force it would take to jump a tall building, and stop a speeding train. Then goes into how much energy Iron Man's suit would have to absorb by solar radiation. It's a lot of fun.

    A similar book is The Physics of Baseball (different author) -- covers the effect of the stitching on the distance the ball travels, the physics of wooden vs. aluminum bats, how much difference spitting on the ball makes...
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

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    • #3
      Robert-
      So this is what you do with your spare time, eh?

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      • #4
        This is a good read.
        http://www.rawbw.com/~svw/superman.html
        Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex

        By Larry Niven


        (just a little excerpt)

        Assume a mating between Superman and a human woman designated LL for convenience.

        Either Superman has gone completely schizo and believes himself to be Clark Kent; or he knows what he's doing, but no longer gives a damn. Thirty-one years is a long time. For Superman it has been even longer. He has X-ray vision; he knows just what he's missing.
        ....
        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Evan
          Oh, that's just wrong.
          "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

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          • #6
            It's 100% on topic though.
            Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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            • #7
              Originally posted by aostling
              I'm reading this book, which presents real physics in an interesting way.
              -While I've been out of the comic scene for decades (I still have a couple thousand in boxes somewhere, nothing valuable though) I understand that's getting to be a part of modern comic stories.

              Back when read 'em, things were still pretty simple: Bad guy A tries to rob bank, Hero B swoops in and captures him after a short battle. It wasn't all quite that simple, but it was still fairly straightforward black and white. The bad guys were evil because they were after money, fame and power (lots of the old "rule the world!" stuff) the good guys fought them because of mom, baseball and apple pie.

              Today, the comics have faux-deep sociopolitical undertones; the "mutants" (as in the X-Men) being an allegory for the racial issues of blacks (or, more recently, gays) and things like the topic of the upcoming Iron Man movie, where a hero (or villain) has some trinket or energy source that could help millions, but he keeps it to himself- either to keep it from falling into the wrong hands, or just out of selfishness.

              Anyway, it seems that latter bit is becoming the hot new topic in comics- Superman once asked Luthor (revamped a few years ago into an industrialist) why he hadn't put all that time, research and effort into, say, curing cancer rather than trying to kill him (Superman.) Characters asking, sometimes just tongue-in-cheek, why a few Thunder Gods, super-soldiers and telepaths didn't head over to Iraq and just snatch Saddam in the middle of the night, or somebody pointing out that the guy that developed a lightweight, user-wearable anti-gravity flight pack... used it to then simply break into banks, rather than licensing that technology to the military for about eighty billion dollars.

              They've occasionally gotten into the physics, but that's less "thought provoking" and more "violating the suspension of disbelief". Yeah, it just not possible for Banner to add a ton of mass from nowhere- and pointing that out is akin to seeing a boom mike in the shot of the guy on the deserted island.

              The book mentions a few superheroes I never knew, like Ant-Man and Ironman. Who was your favorite superhero?
              -You didn't know about Iron Man? He's only been one of Marvel's headlining characters since something like 1964.

              He's easily one of my favorites. Rich- which I'll only be through escapism - and every time he needs a new gadget or weapon, he goes into his shop and makes it. Hard to identify with an Asgardian Thunder God or or a Kryptonian expat, but what red-blooded American kid hasn't dreamed of having a suit of armor at least once? Years ago it was mideval armor, later Stormtrooper armor, more recently that of 'Master Chief' from HALO.

              Doc.
              Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

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              • #8
                I always found the whole super hero thing a little weird. You have a whole bunch of guys running around in spandex with their underwear on the outside wearing what often look like s&m accessories. I lived in New Orleans for almost 10 years and we really did not call people who did that super heroes. But that being said, I am not above a good game of christmas gorilla vs. the super duper girls with the kids - that one is a lot of fun. It would be nice though if the gorilla did not get whacked in the head quite so often...
                Last edited by MickeyD; 02-03-2010, 10:03 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Doc Nickel
                  You didn't know about Iron Man? He's only been one of Marvel's headlining characters since something like 1964.

                  He's easily one of my favorites. Rich- which I'll only be through escapism - and every time he needs a new gadget or weapon, he goes into his shop and makes it.
                  He was always my favorite, too, but my friends all thought he was boring. The movie is really, REALLY good. If you haven't seen it, and you like that kind of movie, SEE IT! He's got a nice shop!

                  -Pete
                  I just like to make stuff.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Doc Nickel
                    Today, the comics have faux-deep sociopolitical undertones; the "mutants" (as in the X-Men) being an allegory for the racial issues of blacks (or, more recently, gays)
                    I was never a comic book fan, but I think you're way off on that Doc. The X-Men first appeared in 1963. Unlike the other superheros, who usually were irradiated , the X-Men are genetic mutations. So yes, their plots have always been about racial discrimination (as in, they're an entirely different race), but the X-Men wasn't Stan Lee's camouflaged homage to "blacks and gays."

                    If anything, Stan was creating an extended metaphor with the Jewish holocaust -- Magneto was a survivor of Auschwitz, and had the concentration camp serial number tattoo, and for most of the series since the 60's, a malevolent government organization who wears black uniforms and jack boots captures X-men, puts them in concentration camps, and tattoos them with bar codes.

                    By coincidence, I watched Iron Man last night for the first time. It's odd that we were talking about Tony Stark's home shop (complete with a manual Bridgeport ) on PracticalMachinist in May 2008, and it still hasn't come out on HBO or Showtime, nearly 2 years later. In any event, appropros to the book in the original topic, what's the fuel for the "Arc Reactor" -- the device which powers Iron Man's suit? In the Physics of Superheros, the author mentions that Iron Man's suit is solar powered, hence the calculation of how much solar radiation it would have to absorb to actually move

                    Does palladium (the primary element in the Arc reactor) naturally generate large quantities of energy?
                    Last edited by lazlo; 02-03-2010, 12:16 PM.
                    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Superheros are nice, so to speak. But, remember that saying," Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

                      I'm not too sure being that powerful or having those "super powers" would be
                      safe in the hands of one single person, let alone somebody who runs around in spandex, wearing a mask.

                      I prefer my superheroes to be a little more realistic.

                      I don't suppose anybody remembers "The Blackhawks". They were basically the comic book equivalent to a group of mercenaries with cool uniforms that flew cool airplanes. They didn't have super powers, just science and technology. They always defeated the bad guys.

                      Unfortunately, they're not around any more. But my heroes are. People like Charles Lindbergh, Kimberly Mumley, Chuck Yeager, and "Sully" Sullenberger are my heroes.

                      Today, the guys who are getting shot at, over in Iraq are heroes.
                      Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a single-engined plane.
                      Chuck Yeager was the first man to break the "sound barrier".
                      Kimberly Munley. The female cop that dropped the Fort Hood shooter. She was wounded three times, and still managed to knock him down before she went down herself. (She is recovering just fine)
                      "Sully" Sullenberger landed an A-320 Airbus in the Hudson River, without engine power, and nobody got killed.

                      Real heroes.

                      Kids today don't have real heroes. They look up to corrupt sports figures, Rappers, and animated Japanese "monsters?"


                      These people are heroes.
                      No good deed goes unpunished.

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                      • #12
                        I always liked The Punisher cause he brings it and gets it done,not like those Bat,Super,Spiderman candy a--es

                        Far as the OP,that's unique since very little of any media gets things technical right.
                        I just need one more tool,just one!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Doc Nickel
                          -You didn't know about Iron Man? He's only been one of Marvel's headlining characters since something like 1964.
                          My confession certainly does date me. In 1964 I had a summer job at JPL, and was involved with the Ranger 7 shot, which transmitted detailed photos of the moon before it crash-landed. I wasn't reading about superheroes then, but now I think that I should have been.

                          The OP book shows four frames from a 1961 Superman comic, and notes: "Superman discovers what quantum theorists have only recently hypothesized -- that travel through time must of necessity also involve transport to alternate, parallel universes."

                          Perhaps I would have scoffed at this notion back then. But not now.
                          Allan Ostling

                          Phoenix, Arizona

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