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Thread: Everything I Know of Science I Learned From Reading Comic Books

  1. #1
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    Oct 2001

    Everything I Know of Science I Learned From Reading Comic Books

    Comic Books Used to Teach Physics

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Is Spiderman's web really strong enough to support him as he swings from building to building?

    Why did Superman's home planet of Krypton explode?

    How much would the Flash need to eat in order to run around the globe in 80 seconds?

    The man to ask is University of Minnesota physics professor Jim Kakalios.

    Kakalios, who has taught physics at the school since 1988, is entering his second semester teaching an elective course for freshmen called Science in Comic Books. Or, as he calls it in his syllabus, ``Everything I Know of Science I Learned From Reading Comic Books.''

    He says using comic books to teach the fundamentals of physics is a great way to stimulate his students. ``It seems by the time they left the class, they were looking at the world with a more critical and more scientific eye,'' he says.

    The fun lies in pointing out where the comic book writers got the science right, and where they got it wrong, he says.

    Kakalios, a comic book lover whose office is filled with action figures, came up with the idea for his class after applying physics to a 1973 Spiderman comic in which Peter Parker's girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, dies.

    Gwen is knocked from a bridge by the evil Green Goblin, but Spiderman catches her with his webbing an instant before she hits the water. When Spiderman pulls her up, he discovers to his horror that she is dead.

    While Spidey was shocked, Kakalios was not.

    The professor estimated Gwen's falling velocity, applied Newton's Second Law of Motion and calculated the G-forces exerted when she went from 95 mph to a standstill in an instant. ``It's not surprising her neck broke,'' Kakalios says.

    Kakalios made Gwen's death an exam problem during the course's first semester last fall.

    The explosion of Krypton, part of Superman lore, is one of those cases where the comic book writers got the physics right, Kakalios says.

    In the early Superman comics, the explanation for his superpowers was that he came from a planet whose gravity was much greater than Earth's, Kakalios says. Thus a hero so strong that on Earth, he could leap a tall building in a single bound.

    Kakalios calculated Krypton's gravity by working backward from the force required to leap a building on Earth. From there, Kakalios concluded that Superman's planet must have had a core of superdense - and dangerously unstable - material. ``Then you realize why Krypton exploded,'' he says.

    In what is likely to be of interest to fans of the box-office hit ``Spider-man,'' Kakalios concluded that Spidey's web is plenty strong enough to swing him from a building or catch a falling heroine. The comic book says the hero's webbing has the tensile strength of steel; from that, Kakalios calculated it could support a couple of tons.

    For his final exam, Kakalios had students choose a comic book scenario to work as a physics problem.

    History major Kristin Barbieri, 19, tried to figure out how much caloric energy the Flash would need to circle the globe in 80 seconds, as he did in one comic book. She concluded that the superhero simply could not have eaten enough to do it.

    ``He would have been able to get the first burst of energy, but he would have sunk (in an ocean) after that,'' Barbieri says.

    Computer science major Eric Caron, 19, also worked a Flash problem. In one comic book, the Flash vibrated his molecules to melt ice that encased him. Caron tried to figure out how fast the hero would have had to vibrate.

    ``It was close to 6,000 mph hour,'' Caron says. ``It's not the most realistic thing. But hey, if he can run at light speed."


    Whoa, that neat or what? I can only gaurontee you that I am taking that class next year if offered. Or at least I'll try if it's not available (yet ) to highschools. But ya, any comments, insights, similar or different view points? Like it or not, reply, I'm curious to know your guys opinion...

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  2. #2
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    Oct 2001
    I think that's a great way of teaching. Creative methods always start students thinking, and are the best way to get them to think of a subject outside of school. I want that class.
    Why am I still here?

  3. #3
    I had the funniest business math professor...

    He used to make up study sheets and worksheet packets that were absolutely HILARIOUS...
    Thought I would share it with you....

    1. Janie sold 3 pounds of cocaine. She sold twice as much to Rickie as she sold to Punky. Punky snorted 75% of her share and sold the remainder to Vanilla Ice Cream Puff. At a street value of $100 dollars per ounce, what is the value of Vanilla's cocaine after he snorts half his share?

    2. Emanenema gets $200 for stealing a BMW, $50 for a Chevy, and $100 for an SUV. If he has stolen 2 BMW's and 3 SUV's, how many Chevy's will he have to steal to make $1000?

    3. Hector knocked up 6 of the girls in his gang. There are 42 girls in the gang. What percentage of the girls has Hector knocked up?

    4. During Hootchie Mama's first day of business, 40 customers paid an average of $250 per trick. As business improved, sales each day increased 10% over the day before. What were the total sales revenues for Hootchie Mama's after 5 days of business?

    5. Kaput, Foolio, and Master Peewee went into business together to promote a new recording artist, The Artist Formerly Known as Vanilla Ice Cube Cream Puff Daddy. Originally
    Kaput invested 25,000, Foolio invested 50,000 and Master Peewee invested 75,000. The new recording artist whose name is too long to pronounce has generated profits of only 3,000 this year. If profits are to be distributed according to investments, how much of the profits will each investor receive?

    ~The budget for rap artist Emin-idiot's tour is as follows:

    Skanky chicks: 11,000
    Chaw: 2,500
    Fancy cars to impress skanky chicks: 182,000
    Expensive motels to impress skanky chicks: 92,000
    Penicillin: 20,000
    Hair Bleach: 9,000
    Body Piercings: 13,000
    Gaudy Jewelry to impress skanky chicks: 171,000

    6. What percent is spent on hair bleach and body piercings?

    You get the point....He made it so much fun. It was one of those classes though, where we didn't go out and bitch on a smoke break, because we were too busy laughing....

  4. #4
    heh now thats class
    pity i can't do a degree in that - might ay more attention in my lecures if i could


  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Nov 2001
    Aah, would be a dream, right now Im in a C++ class with a teacher that uses one tone level.. Hes been at it for 2 hours now.. and when hes uncertain of what to say he cough. Anyone got small project ideas that would be interesting in C++? His examples are totaly pointless and were having problems staying awake.
    Dear Santa, I liked the mp3 player I got but next christmas I want a SA-7 surface to air missile

  6. #6
    AO Soccer Mom debwalin's Avatar
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    Mar 2002
    I think it's a great way to teach at any age level. I have a six year old, and I employ the same methods with him, at a much lower level. Any time you can take something a person is already interested in and apply it to something they need to learn, you're going to have their complete attention where you wouldn't normally. It may have critics, but IMO, it's something you have to learn. Who cares if it's an unusual way to learn it, as long as the concept is learned.

    Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.

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