May 25, 2013 2:51 pm

This Sunday’s Classic Podcast: The Physics of Superheroes

Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses Superman, shown here in this summer's Man of Steel.

From this summer’s Man of Steel. TM & © 2013 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. TM & © DC COMICS (From DC Entertainment)

It’s shaping up to be an awesome summer for superhero fans. The season kicked off with a blockbuster Iron Man 3… much better than the average third installment of most super hero sagas. And we’ve still got the Superman reboot, Man of Steel, which looks incredible, the next movie in the X-Men franchise, The Wolverine, and the sequel to Kick-Ass.

Which makes it the perfect time to revisit a classic episode of StarTalk Radio, The Physics of Superheroes. After all, if you are into super heroes, you’ve participated in more than your share of discussions about who’s stronger, who’s faster, who’s smarter, who’s… you get the point. And injecting a healthy dose of scientific fact into those discussions may not be a bad thing.

And by scientific fact, I don’t mean something like Sheldon’s classic line from The Big Bang Theory: “Your argument is lacking in all scientific merit. It is well established Superman cleans his uniform by flying into Earth’s yellow sun, which incinerates any contaminate matter and leaves the invulnerable Kryptonian fabric unharmed and daisy fresh.”

No, I’m talking about the kind of science and physics you get from listening to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and his guest, physicist and author James Kakalios discuss whether science could actually give us Superman’s X-ray vision, Spider-Man’s web shooters, Wonder Woman’s bullet-stopping bracers, The Flash’s super speed, or Batman’s “wonderful toys.” Or Princeton University molecular biologist Lee Silver talking about actual abilities that exist in the animal kingdom that could be manipulated and added to human biology to create real “super powers.” (And we’re not talking about shrinking – take that, Ant-Man!)

In fact, if you’re interested in a little science with your super heroes, don’t stop with just Part 1. In The Physics of Superheroes, the Sequel the conversation with Neil and James continues. This time, though, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku is along for the ride, which delves into the realm of quantum mechanics and nanotechnology to explore the possibility of super powers. The discussion includes Green Lantern, Phoenix, Doctor Manhattan, Dr. Solar, Professor X and more.

Each episode is co-hosted by a different kind of comic super hero: Eugene Mirman wonders what it would be like to leap tall buildings in a single bound in the first, while Chuck Nice wants to make the world “Kneel before Zod” in the sequel.

Make sure your super hero arguments aren’t “lacking in all scientific merit” – listen now:  The Physics of Superheroes & The Physics of Superheroes, the Sequel

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons

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