I’m currently reading The Physics of Superheroes, by James Kakalios. The book is quite fun, although the physics sometimes goes over my head. I should point out that this isn’t because of any flaw with James Kakalios’s writing, it’s just that the physics sometimes go over my head. In fact, Kakalios is quite gifted at explaining things with easy to follow examples.
The basic premise of the book is that if you allow for one “miracle exception,” comic book characters tend to be rather on the mark with their physics. No, being bitten by a radioactive spider won’t give you spider powers, but with that leap out of the way it turns out that Spiderman’s swinging and web strength make sense. On the other hand, there are plenty of slip ups in the comic book world and, sadly, Spidey’s super strength doesn’t quite jibe; scaling up an insect’s lifting and jumping power doesn’t work.
Thus far the coolest thing in the book is the discussion of Magneto. It isn’t that Magneto is inherently cooler than Superman or The Flash, but it turns out the comic book writers were being pretty accurate when they allowed Magneto to levitate other objects using his ability to create and control strong magnetic fields.
Cue the University of Nijmegen’s videos of levitating strawberries and frogs located here.