I know superheroes.
I have been joyfully riding the wave of the last decade’s box office obsession with crime fighters in costume. I follow up these films with my own research into the comic book background and a healthy dose of trivia. Many people wouldn’t consider this to be the most productive of hobbies, but exploring superhero lore has been enjoyable AND educational for me. The writers behind some of the best comic books and movies have made their stories appealing by diligently researching plausible science on which to base their plots. They draw inspiration from cutting-edge technology, current ethical concerns about science, and of course nature. And even when the writers don’t always get the facts exactly right, they’ve created a good starting point for real scientific discussions.
My favorite example of this is Dr. James Kakalios’ 2006 book “The Physics of Superheroes.” The author subsequently served as a scientific consultant for the movie Watchmen, and interestingly enough, the text was published by Gotham Books. Dr. Kakalios examines characters from comic books and uses them to explain Newtonian and quantum physics. Sometimes the comics get it right (ex. early Superman’s strength could be explained by his biological adaptation to the planet Krypton, which had much greater gravity than Earth due to the neutron star at its core), and other times not so much (ex. later Superman shooting lasers from his eyes). In either case, the character’s traits were evaluated scientifically and extended to illustrate basic physical laws.
I will be posting about other biomimetic topics that you might call more “based in reality” as time goes along. Superheroes just provide me with ideas and a fun framework for exploring humanity’s mimicry of nature.