Posted in literature, physics

The Physics of Superheroes

Win a copy from Underwire:

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 Wired.com 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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Posted in biology, communication and networking, literature

Channeling Creativity

From To the Best of our Knowledge, audio from the show discussing how to channel creativity, how to shrug off the inner critic, and why talent is overrated. Plus an interview with Lynda Barry on how to unlock creativity.

It’s an interesting analysis on the creative process from many different perspectives.

Posted in astronomy, biology, chemistry, communication and networking, education, engineering, literature, Nanotechnology, Optics, physics, Solar and Alternative Energy

PhD Comics

Just stumbled upon Jorge Cham’s PhD Comics looking for something else, and had forgotten just how amusing it is.

The target audience is really anybody who has spent a long time in academia, either going for a graduate degree or just working in an academe setting. But it definitely tickles the funny bone of scientists everywhere, and I think for the Generation X/Y crowd of scientists it can hit a funny nerve. 

I have met also Jorge Cham, and he is a very cool guy, so I want to promote his stuff.

A recent favorite of mine:

Great Tweets of Science
Great Tweets of Science
Posted in biology, communication and networking, engineering, literature

“Watchmen” tech a reality?

The latest comic book, er, graphic novel-cum-guaranteed blockbuster will soon be upon us. The Watchmen, based in mid-80s is about a group of superheroes essentially trying to find their place in the modern world, while also solving murders and saving the world. You know, the usual superhero stuff.

Back in 1986-87, when the series was written, writer Alan Moore was trying to come up with some futuristic-but-not-too-futuristic stuff, like supersymmetry theory, electric cars, and teleportation, to make the Watchmen’s world seem somewhat possible. Well, 20 years later, we’re now living with some of that stuff, or will be in the near future. (For the record, teleportation is still a loooong ways away). Read on for more details.

You have to wonder how many scientists in the 20th century were inspired by DC Comics. What will inspire the scientists of the 21st century? The Powerpuff Girls?

Posted in communication and networking, electronic imaging and displays, literature

Calling Dick Tracy

Once again, comics inspire science. When Batman films come out everyone wants a utility belt. That apparently was easy to do. But a wrist-phone? Not possible. Until now. Definitely inspired by the legendary Dick Tracy of comic book fame, LG debuted its LG wrist-watch/phone at  the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this past weekend.

Just as an aside, I wonder who is actually old enough to remember the Dick Tracy comics from their original run, and yet also be tech-geeky enough to immediately want to run out and buy the new gizmo.

Anyway, the new device is about as big as digital watches from the 1980s, but you can apparently text-message, call, and watch streaming video on the device, which is more than any of my phones can do. 

From the article: “It supports 3G HSDPA that enables faster data transmission and even allows you to make ‘video phone calls’ using the built-in camera. It’s a quad-band GSM phone, so you’ll be able to take it with you if you travel abroad.”

Hmmm, Dick Tracy, international man of mystery? We may be on to a new franchise here…

Posted in communication and networking, electronic imaging and displays

“Dr. Horrible” a great idea, or already been done?

People are making a lot of noise about Joss Whedon and crew’s new creation Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. You can either view the episodes for free or buy them off itunes. Both venues have had a stunning success, with the first episode being the #1 purchase off itunes the day of its debut. Reviewers and studio executives are calling this concept of having scripted, brand new, exclusively online webisodes available for viewing and purchase a wonderful, fabulous, and so-crazy-it-just-might-work idea.

The thing is, this has already been going on for years, just not with live action. Literally gazillions of cartoonists, animators, and graphic artists have been producing short, scripted cartoons for years and offering them online for free as well as for sale. Homestarrunner is probably one of the more famous ones, as is Weebl and Bob in the UK. Both of these sites offer free cartoons, and then offer merchandise or DVDs of their work for purchase, with much success. The Homestar gang has been able to live off of their website for a few years now.

But for some reason live action gets more street cred, plus it’s Joss Whedon and several famous actors starring in the show, which also adds weight and grabs critics’ and fans’ attention. But considering how much of a comic buff Joss Whedon is, I’m surprised he hasn’t done an online cartoon series already (he has an online comic series).