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The Science of Superheroes | [Lois Gresh, Robert Weinberg, introduction by Dean Koontz]

The Science of Superheroes

If the planet Krypton had a gravitational field strong enough to account for Superman's amazing strength, would it be possible to launch a rocket ship from the planet's surface? Could evolution actually produce X-Men? The Science of Superheroes takes a lighthearted but clearheaded look at the real science behind some of the greatest superhero comic books of all time.
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Publisher's Summary

If the planet Krypton had a gravitational field strong enough to account for Superman's amazing strength, would it be possible to launch a rocket ship from the planet's surface? Assuming that the Flash could actually travel at the speed of light, would any villain ever stand a chance against him? Could evolution actually produce X-Men?

The Science of Superheroes takes a lighthearted but clearheaded look at the real science behind some of the greatest superhero comic books of all time, including Spider-Man, Batman, the Fantastic Four, and many more. Each chapter presents the origin of one or more superheroes and asks intriguing questions that lead to fascinating discussions about the limits of science, the laws of nature, and the future of technology.

If gamma rays can't turn a 128-pound weakling into the Incredible Hulk, what could? Are Spider-Man's powers really those of a spider? Could a person ever breathe water like a fish? From telepathy to teleportation, from cloning to cosmic rays, this vastly entertaining romp through the nexus of science and fantasy separates the possible from the plausible and the barely plausible from the utterly ridiculous.

You'll discover the connection between black holes and green lanterns; what Galileo could have told Professor Pym about the stresses caused by shrinking and growing; and how many of Batman's "inventions" anticipated actual technological developments. You'll learn how comic book writers use "technobabble" to create seemingly credible explanations of improbable superpowers and bizarre events.

The Science of Superheroes celebrates the ingenuity and imagination of the writers and artists behind the greatest superheroes, and offers helpful suggestions on how some characters' origin stories could be made more believable. It offers immensely enjoyable and informative listening for anyone who loves science, superheroes, or both.

The Science of Superheroes is also available in print from Wiley.

Executive Producer: Dan Zitt
©2002 by Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg
(P)2002 Random House Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Weinberg and Gresh tell it like it is - and how it would be, if our favorite comic book characters actually existed. The Science of Superheroes is a fascinating and entertaining examination of everything from astrophysics to genetic biology to the evolution of the 'superhero.'" (Mark Powers, editor, X-Men and Uncanny X-Men)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (300 )
5 star
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3.8 (61 )
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3.9 (61 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Shaquille Tobyhanna, PA, USA 12-06-09
    Shaquille Tobyhanna, PA, USA 12-06-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "To much irrelvent information"

    This book simply has too much irrelevant information. It also can't seem to stay on topic. For example, in the chapter about The Flash, it talks about the anatomy of a cheetah. At first you think that's it's trying to make a point, but then it goes on never to mention the cheetah again. Also, the analysis of the powers wore sorely lacking. A good example of this was Superman. The only thing about Superman that it talks about is his super-strength. Although the analysis of his strength was good, it could've at least went into more depth about flying.

    There are other examples of going off topic, such as the chapter on Green Lantern and X-Men. It briefly mentioned the validity of telepathy, but then went on to talk about evolution vs creation. In some cases, for 20 minutes it starts to make an argument which would prove some powers possible, then spends another 10 minutes proving it wrong (such as the case with Superman). There are also situations in which it openly refuses to talk about certain powers (Ex. Spiderman, Superman, X-Men).

    Overall, I would not recommend this book, especially if you getting it for a certain hero, like I did. Although the actual science it provides is good in it's own respect, when talking about superheroes it's irrelevant.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Loi Leesburg, VA, USA 02-25-03
    Loi Leesburg, VA, USA 02-25-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    3
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    "Fun read"

    This is an interesting book and answers a number of questions that just aren't relevant when you're deep into comic book reading. It's a good step back from the fantasy world and provides intriguing explanations on how each superhero is able to do the things they do. I wish there were more analysis on other superheroes. Superman, Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Batman were either inadequate or just plain boring. Spiderman, Atom, and Submariner explanations were ok. Maybe the author will write a second version with analysis on characters from the Avenger, Xmen, Ironman, and DareDevil.

    This first book is too long on the history of comic books and short on analysis of the superpowers. Hopefully version 2 (if it comes out) will jump directly into the analysis of each superhero's powers and analyze more Marvel characters.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gregory Harrisburg, PA, USA 03-17-06
    Gregory Harrisburg, PA, USA 03-17-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Super Discussion"

    The Science of Superhereos proved to be outstanding in two respects. First, it is a great history of comics for anyone who grew up reading comics.

    But more than that, it excels ar discussing the science behond the fiction. Topics from many arreas of science are covered, including physics, astronomy, biology, evolution, and chemistry. The explanations are clear and easy to follow, even for someone with no background in science at all. It was also very entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of black holes and stellar evolution.

    This book is highly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Duluth, GA, USA 12-09-04
    Mark Duluth, GA, USA 12-09-04 Member Since 2003
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    "Beautifully done!"

    A grand mix of comic history, trivia, and science. Using the superheroes by nature or origin, they jump on subjects like black holes, relativity, genetics, evolution, probability of alien life, and more. As a follower of comics for decades, I was surprised at the detailed stories that were referenced and compared, some only a few years old. Whether a lover of DC or Marvel, you'll find something to interest you here. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Xmen -they're all here to some level or not.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rob Warnbro, Australia 08-08-14
    Rob Warnbro, Australia 08-08-14 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "History, science, or philospohy"

    The book makes some good attempts at exploring both side of the argument, but other times the scientific argument is extremely biased and irrelevant. For example: it discusses the physiology of the cheetah, efficient lungs etc..., yet fails to explore how these constraints (of the Flash) would impact his performance. It also describes the energy required for a typical human to do a certain feat, but i would not refer to the Flash as a typical human. With all thee figures being spouted, surely the argument for 100% efficiency of food consumption be explored.

    By the time I reached the creationist versus science argument I was on auto-pilot, waiting patiently to finish the book.

    I doubt the writers have had any thesis or science experience: commonly misusing the terms theory, truth or fact.

    I was expecting a fun lighthearted exploration of comic super-heroes; I received a few interesting tid-bits hidden behind an overwhelming amount of pointless exposition.

    I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS BOOK.
    (oh gawd, there is another book too... )

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric Knox grean road, New Brunswick, Canada 12-01-12
    Eric Knox grean road, New Brunswick, Canada 12-01-12 Member Since 2012

    I value the scientific method, have some understanding of the size and age of the universe and I respect the methods and findings of science.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The One, Two Punch of Heroes!"
    Would you listen to The Science of Superheroes again? Why?

    I think I will!


    Any additional comments?

    This is just a fun book. I even enjoyed the Donald Duck part. I have been looking for Heroes in modern books and sadly have found few. This book allowed me to spend some quality time with some true heroes. Thanks Audible!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harry Moscow, Russia 04-23-11
    Harry Moscow, Russia 04-23-11 Member Since 2011

    Pseudo-Writer

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Book Except a Little Inaccurate"

    I love the concept of this book. As a hardcore superhero fan I was delighted to find out that someone had gone through the trouble of answering the questions I had always wanted to know. The narrator was top notch and kept things interesting.
    The only real problem I have with this book is the last chapter. Listening to the book, things kept building and getting better, I was actually on the edge of my seat trying to guess what the final question would be. Seriously on the edge of my seat over an educational science book - WEIRD!
    The thing is that the last chapter was about Donald Duck comics. And while Donald Duck had a great comic I am sure, he is in no way, shape, or form a superhero or anything that resembles a superhero.
    How could the authors get it so wrong. It should have been called the Science of Comics not of superheroes.
    This small complaint last them a star but it is still a great book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sheryl AucklandNew Zealand 03-01-08
    Sheryl AucklandNew Zealand 03-01-08

    A New Zealander with a wide range of tastes in books. Very fond of humour and now learning things (such as astronomy and physics) that I found boring in school over 30 years ago. Seriously keen on classic mysteries, especially locked room mysteries (you know, the ones you can't get anymore).

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This is fun"

    This book, I admit, took me a few listens before I realised how good it was. To begin with, I found it boring, then I really listened to it. It's full of information that's both informative and funny (although some of it may be out of date by now). The narration is good and the prologue is particularly funny, having been written by Dean Koontz. It gets a bit boring again towards the end when the authors questions cartoonists about the future of comic books. All in all though, it's a good listen, showing where the story of a comic book very often neglects the science in preference to the storyline. For fans of both comics and science, it's illuminating.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristoffer Central Islip, NY, USA 10-13-05
    Kristoffer Central Islip, NY, USA 10-13-05
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    Overall
    "Interesting for comic readers and non-readers"

    For those who are interested in how superheroes are what they are, this audiobook is certainly a major pick. In short, it breaks down the possibility of having an actual "superhero" in reality. It takes some of the major superheroes of the DC/Marvel worlds like Batman or the X-Men and relates science/physics in order to prove or disprove the existence or possible existence of these characters. It brought me to a point where I can understand why some of these characters are pure fiction and some where it can actually be possible. Although this title can drag out for a while, it brings up some insights about the history of the comic industry and its people. It was pretty educational (which is a huge understatement) and I found it intriguing. For those who don't read comics or not as involved, I recommend this title for an alternative to comics. For the average comic fan, unless your uptight about certain things, go ahead and get schooled by this title. It might give something to think about.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Manteca, CA, USA 06-01-05
    Robert Manteca, CA, USA 06-01-05
    ratings
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    1
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    "Comics & Useful Science"

    This was actually a wonderful listen. The only downsides for me were that the ratio of science to superhero is well in favor of the science (although there is quite a bit of comic history, it certainly is not the books focus), and some of the "points" that come across are fairly obvious. On the other hand, there are many quite complex explanations that the authors boil down so that they are easy to understand even for a layman. The reader has a good voice and keeps a great pace throughout some of the longer explanations, which only enhances the learning experiance. While most of the information isn't useful on a day to day basis, it certainly couldn't hurt to know it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 25 results PREVIOUS123NEXT
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  • Robert
    Southampton, United Kingdom
    8/26/12
    Overall
    "Appalling"

    The information being imparted here may well be accurate, but the quality of writing and the style is absolutely dire ! There is mild swearing throughout, and the reader sounds so naive and "dumb", that I keep expecting him to use words like "wow", "cool", and "awesome" at any moment. It is the most dreadful book I have ever come across.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Bobby Davro
    LIVERPOOL United Kingdom
    3/19/11
    Overall
    "A bit drawn out and dry."

    Some interesting discussions, but inconsistent and drawn out in parts. For example the chapter on aquaman spends far too long unpacking a modern evolutionary theory that man evolved in aquatic environments. And is it really necessary to debate fish communication in such depth. Other queries don't get sufficient coverage e.g. Batman's grapple line: could he carry enough line on his person, could the grapple penetrate walls? Ultimately a bit hit and miss and rather dry. Some interesting comic history though.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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