A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Sunday, April 09, 2006

LA Times on Superhero Science

The original article apparently saw print a couple of weeks ago, but it showed up in my paper today. So enjoy:

L.A. Times: An (Un)Caped Crusader for Science

Could an overdose of gamma rays really transform someone into the Incredible Hulk? Was Superman defying Einstein's theory of relativity when he flew faster than the speed of light?

While other UC Irvine science classes dissect sharks or explore plasma physics, Professor Michael Dennin's seminar analyzes comic book superpowers.

In recent weeks, students in his Science of Superheroes course have investigated Batman's utility belt, pondered gravity on the planet Krypton and designed their own superpower concepts that would use existing or envisioned technology.

The 10-week class is part of a University of California program that aims to expose freshmen to unfamiliar topics and majors...

Dennin, 39, a UCI physics professor, said the goal of the seminar was to use pop culture as a hook to introduce such concepts as black holes, cloning, life on other planets, quantum mechanics and Newtonian physics.

"Many students have a fear of science," Dennin said, "but if they come at it from a different angle, they sometimes find out they're interested in the subject and take more classes."...

And the class's textbook? It's Lois Gresh's and Robert Weinberg's The Science of Superheroes. Once I'm settled in (I'm in the process of moving right now), I think I may need to finally check that book out for myself.