BBC presents: The Science of Superheroes!
June 20, 2002 4:15 AM   Subscribe

BBC presents: The Science of Superheroes! Ever wonder how Spider-Man climbs on walls? How do lie detectors such as Wonder Woman's lasso work? What was gravity like on planet Krypton? The BBC takes a scientific look at our favorite superheroes to teach the physics behind the fantasy.
posted by phatboy (8 comments total)
Nice find! The didn't include Spawn, but I guess he doesn't really fall under the category of "superhero." *Sigh.*
posted by adampsyche at 5:35 AM on June 20, 2002


That had me rolling on the floor. Quality.
posted by Frasermoo at 5:48 AM on June 20, 2002

Cool idea, and good find, but woefully underexecuted by the BBC.
posted by Sinner at 7:52 AM on June 20, 2002

I wish they'd debunked "Spider-Strength." When a spider (or more likely, an ant) lifts a rock 2x its size, that's not because the spider is strong, it's because the rock is so tiny -- even a puny spider can lift it. A rock 2x the size of a human is much much heavier - the difference in weight increases as the cube of the difference in size.

A spider the size of a human would probably be weaker than a human.
posted by straight at 7:58 AM on June 20, 2002

I don't think any discussion of superhero science is complete without Larry Niven's Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex essay.
posted by joaquim at 10:14 AM on June 20, 2002

Lastly, he'd blow off the top of her head.

Ejaculation of semen is entirely involuntary in the human male, and in all other forms of terrestrial life. It would be unreasonable to assume otherwise for a Kryptonian. But with Kryptonian muscles behind it, Kal-El's semen would emerge with the muzzle velocity of a machine gun bullet. (One can imagine that the Kent home in Smallville was riddled with holes during Superboy's puberty. And why did Lana Lang never notice that?)

I sure do love Larry Niven's work. (I don't care for most of his Pournelle collaborations, though.)

Incidentally, if Krypton were a "Jupiter-sized" planet with high gravity, its inhabitants would have evolved to be short, squat and very muscular in order to deal with the higher gravity. Clark wouldn't have looked like us, but rather an extreme version of the inhabitants of Jinx in Niven's own Known Space series. That would have given him a little difficulty blending in at Smallville High and The Daily Planet.

(Sigh ... here I am, debunking "comic book science". It really is a slow day at work ...)
posted by chuq at 12:25 PM on June 20, 2002

but woefully underexecuted by the BBC.

I figured that out after the first two superheros, but it was thereafter fun to try and guess what the explanation would be.

But they could have executed it in the same way "On the implausability of the Death Star trash compacter" was. That'd have been an introspective read!

Now, the Hulk did not turn green because he needed to blend with his surroundings. Come on, BBC, it's from Gamma radiation!
posted by Modem Ovary at 1:23 PM on June 20, 2002

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