Posted in literature, physics

The Physics of Superheroes

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Superheroes do more than put the smackdown on supervillains. These costumed crime-fighters also teach physics, thanks to a University of Minnesota professor who tapped comic books for his classroom lectures.

While teaching introductory physics at the school, James Kakalios used examples from comic books, Star Wars and television shows to illustrate various scientific principles.

“I thought it would be a fun challenge to see if I could teach an entire physics class, covering everything from Isaac Newton to the transistor, but without an inclined plane or pulley in sight,” Kakalios told in an e-mail interview. “Rather, all the examples would come from superhero comic books and, as much as possible, those times where the heroes got their physics right.”

The idea caught on with students, and Kakalios compiled his superpowered lessons into The Physics of Superheroes, a book that uses Spider-Man to teach the concept of centripetal acceleration, Iron Man to explain solid-state physics and the Flash to illuminate Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

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Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.