From web-spinning adventures to gravity-defying rescues and explosive action, the stories of larger-than-life comic book characters have thrilled and inspired us for years. But have you ever wondered how fast Superman must have flown to save Lois Lane as she plummeted off a skyscraper? How much force did Spiderman use to stop the train from derailing into disaster? Well, you'll no longer have to wonder about Wolverine or be suspicious of Superman. Never fear! Professor Kakalios is here to save the day! Pow!
Not only is Jim Kakalios a physics professor at the University of Minnesota teaching classes such as "Everything I know about Physics I Learned By Reading Comic Books," he is also a tried and true superhero consultant so-to-speak. He has served as a scientific consultant on Warner Brothers' 2009 film Watchmen as well as the upcoming summer flick The Amazing Spider-Man. Through the National Academy of Science's Science and Entertainment Exchange program, Kakalios consulted behind two of the superhero's most important traits: webbing and wall crawling.
His most important contribution to the film is the "Decay Rate Algorithm," a mathematical expression relating to cell regeneration and human mortality. The equation needed to be so memorable that audience members would be able to recognize it during several scenes throughout the movie.
The algorithm provides a mathematical explanation for how defective cells multiply against the weekend immune system of an aging body and become fatal: combining the real science found in the Gompertz Equation and the Reliability Theory of Aging and Longevity.
Aside from transforming fictional situations into realistic scenarios, he also wrote the book The Physics of Superheroes as well as The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics. "At the end of the day, I'm not looking for a movie to be 100 percent scientifically accurate. But if they can do something right, it's like catching a little inside joke... And who knows? Maybe the audience will learn a little something about science," says Kakalios on his website. See his work come to life on screen in The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters July 3rd.
Check out "Everything I know About Physics I Learned By Reading Comic Books" along with other freshman seminars offered here.