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   from the issue of October 27, 2005

Probe into superhero physics draws over 100


Nothing draws a crowd like men in tights.

On Oct. 20, more than 100 faculty, staff, students and members of the public filled the Nebraska Union auditorium to listen to James Kakalios probe Superman's building-leaping ability, the strength required by Spiderman's webs, the consequences of The Flash's speed, and more. Kakalios brought his love of comics and physics to UNL with his talk "The Uncanny Physics of Superhero Comics," seamlessly blending the fun and fantasy of comics with the reality of physics.

Kakalios' presentation is based on a semester-long freshman seminar he teaches at the University of Minnesota where he is a faculty member in the School of Physics and Astronomy. The seminar, "Everything I Know About Science I Learned from Reading Comic Books," has been a hit with students since it began three years ago. "Students are too busy having fun to realize they're learning physics," said Kakalios. "It's like getting you to eat your spinach by hiding it in a superhero ice cream sundae."

Kakalios' approach to physics has also become a hit with the general public.

Interest began at about the time the first Spiderman movie was released in 2002. An article Kakalios wrote for a Minnesota paper on how Spiderman comics get physics right or wrong was picked up by national and international media.

A People magazine article highlighting Kakalios' inventive teaching method followed along with invitations to speak at various events from academic seminars to comic book conventions. Recently, Kakalios' book "The Physics of Superhereos" was released. He signed copies of the book following the presentation at UNL.

The UNL Department of Physics and Astronomy and Project Fulcrum sponsored Kakalio's talk.

Raychelle Burks is a Ph.D. student in the UNL Department of Physics and in the science-writing class in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.



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Probe into superhero physics draws over 100