Monday, February 8, 2010

Repeat After Me: Radiation Will Not Give Me Superpowers. It Will Kill Me.

When I was eighteen years old I was bitten by a spider. At first I thought it was going to be the greatest event of my young life; I had spent nearly two decades idolizing Stan Lee's Friendly Neighboorhood Superhero so you can only imagine how excited I was. Super strength, 6th sense, sticking to walls and such, they were all going to be mine! Two days later there were violent looking red streaks in my legs where the spider goodness venom was wreaking havoc in my cardiovascular system and a day after that a painful swelling in my genitals forced me to hobble into a doctor's office to receive treatment (consisting of anti-goodness venom pills and a steroid pill that was about the size of a golf ball).

If only I had read James Kakalios' fantastic book sooner. I would have known that it takes a 'miracle exception' for such things to occur and that 'miracle exceptions' don't occur in real life. Ever. In The Physics of Superheroes Mr. Kakalios takes us on an educational journey through the realm of physics and the comic book interpretation/exaggeration of some of Nature's most fundamental laws. Within the first 50 pages of the book we are taught exactly how much force a person would need to exert in order to leap a tall building (5,600 pounds, in case you were wondering) in a solitary jump (notice how I've managed to avoid possible copyright infringement? It's an art form, folks). From there he goes on to explain why a giant human couldn't see without tinted goggles, how much food someone would have to eat if they could run at nearly the speed of light, and why you should never try to catch your girlfriend with a piece of hastily thrown rope if a maniac throws her off a tall structure.

Throughout the book the author educates his readers on some simple to moderate physics equations and principles, all while sharing a deep and abiding love for comic books that ranges from the Golden age of the 1940s and 50s to the present. Never showing a preference to either of the two main comic publishing companies, James Kakalios is clearly in possession of a superpowered intellect and a fair amount of humorous writing ability. A word of adivce, however: this book is best read with a notebook or a whiteboard handy so you can follow along with the equations yourself while reading about how to free your friends from a diamond cage by shooting a diamond arrow. This is a must have for all comic book nerds who dream of having the power to fly, pick up tanks, or talk to girls.

Go buy it. Now.

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