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The Physics of Superheroes
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The Physics of Superheroes

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  1,099 ratings  ·  142 reviews
A complete update to the hit book on the real physics at work in comic books, featuring more heroes, more villains, and more science
Since 2001, James Kakalios has taught Everything I Needed to Know About Physics I Learned from Reading Comic Books, a hugely popular university course that generated coast-to-coast media attention for its unique method of explaining complex
ebook, Spectacular Second Edition, 448 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Gotham Books (first published 2005)
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Oh many times could this book have been written when I was a kid?
Here's a short list of role playing games involving human mutations, animal mutations, super secret powers and abilities I got into with some of my friends- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Generic Universal Role Playing System; Heroes Unlimited; Battletech; Robotech; James Bond; DC Universe; Marvel Universe and of course, D and D.
We'd spend afternoons and summer nights arguing about this concept- what is the most powerful
Aspry  Jones
Any lover of superheroes with a yearn to read funny textbooks is honor-bound to pick up this piece of reference by James Kakalios. Comic book lover and physics professor at the University of Minnesota, Kakalios employs the mathematics behind electricity, motion, power, time, theory and, if it applies, logic, to defend or debunk the ideas behind super powers. Why is Superman so strong? Could Henry Pym really become an "ant man?" And why is it believable that the X-Men's Kitty Pryde can walk throu ...more
James Kakalios is not only a theoretical physicist, but a comic book maven who can quote reams of superhero lore by issue, page, and panel. His book might be described as a freshman physics text for humanities majors, but with this twist—all of the physical principles are illustrated with the characters and stories from superhero comics. Did you know that, in order for Superman to leap a tall building (of a certain specified height) in a single bound, his muscles would have had to evolve on a Kr ...more
Not quite as influential as The Physics of Star Trek but still pretty cool, the Physics of Superheroes is still more realistic than most of the technology discussed in the Physics of Star Trek. My lovely wife got this book for me for Christmas, hoping that it would help my with Physics and entertain some of my lifelong questions of who is faster, Superman or the Flash, and which are tougher, Wolverine's claws or Captain America's shield. Surprisingly, the book even helped answer one of my first ...more
If I were in high school or a high school physics teacher, this book would be a great way to get interested or get your students interested in physics problems. At a fundamental level thinking about situations in the right way lends to easy analysis and this book gets the intuition right.

While the calculations are trivial, their implications are interesting. For example, calculating the force that Superman requires to jump over a building leads to discussions about what Krypton must have been li
Fantastic! A surprisingly thorough overview of physics told with many many illustrations from super hero comics. Sprinkle with a bit of multiplication and some humor and serve hot.

A warning that this blasts through about three semesters worth of physics in 300 pages, so if you aren't all that interested in the science it's probably a bit too intense.
I think I got a D in physics. However, when I originally bought this book I couldn't put it down. With a great, entertaining surrounding like comic books, Kakalios sneaks in some serious education.
Samuel Miravet Verde
Una obra cuanto menos, curiosa.

Kakalios cuenta en el prefacio que siempre que tenía que explicar los conceptos más complejos en sus clases de física, sus alumnos acababan desconectando...¿cuál fue su solución? Una genialidad: explicarlo todo con superhéroes. Después de varias charlas con enorme éxito, decidió escribir el libro.

La idea es explicar los conceptos básicos (y no tan básicos) usando a Superman, Flash, Spiderman y demás héroes de reconocida fama y el resultado es una obra de calidad, c
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Ecco il primo commento che voglio associare a questo libro.
Chiariamo una prima cosa: si tratta a tutti gli effetti di un libro di divulgazione di Fisica per principianti (o giù di lì) assolutamente ben fatto e su questo non ci piove.
La novità sta nel modo in cui l’argomento è trattato: James Kakalios, che nella vita è anzitutto Nerd e poi Professo di Fisica all’università del Minnesota, ha ben pensato di prendere un bel po’ di storie e situazioni dei classici fumetti Marvel e DC e di s
I wanted this book to be a simple and fun refresher on physics, as I came in a little bit rusty on them, and needing to solve physics problems with increased frequency at work of late. I was surprised to discover that this book taught me nearly as much about comic books(and their history) as it did physics. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, considering most of what I know about comics comes from television or movie spin offs, but it was still nice.

It's obvious that James Kakalios really enjoye
A very entertaining analysis of the physics of comic book personages, the Physics of Superheroes chronicles the more logical side of the staple of the American geek, even when the logical seems illogical. Even if you hated physics in school, you will love the way the author delivers the content, which couldn't've been any more cool, as who doesn't love comic books and superheroes? My favorite part of this tome, aside from the content, is the pictures that accompany it, particularly the one that ...more
Ben Babcock
I must confess that, as a kid and an adolescent, I never shared the ardour for comic books many of my peers did. I collected Archie comics and read the odd Superman comic, but that was about it. So unlike most, who come for the superheroes, I came to The Physics of Superheroes for the physics.

As an aspiring teacher, I love to hear about new ways of teaching difficult or boring topics to students. While I don't find physics boring, I can see it being difficult—and, depending on how it's presented
Himanshu Modi
Have you ever been so fascinated by a superhero that you try to get yourself bitten by a spider so as to be able to swing from one high rise building to another, regardless of the fact that those spiders were neither genetically mutated through exposure to radiation nor are there that many high rise buildings in the city that you live in?

Well I have been. That probably explains why I liked this particular book so much. This book will be enjoyed by the following grades of people, in the descendin
Maurizio Codogno
Pensare di spiegare la fisica partendo dalle imprese dei supereroi Marvel e DC è una follia, su questo non ci sono dubbi. Bisogna però tenere a mente due cose: i fisici non sono matti come i matematici, ma quasi; e gli esempi usuali per spiegare la fisica, con piani inclinati, pendoli e via discorrendo, sono così noiosi che si farebbe di tutto pur di non vederli. Così James Kakalios, fisico americano e appassionato di fumetti, ha pensato di vedere se si poteva tirare fuori qualcosa ed è uscito q ...more
As someone who always liked science in school through being brought up around sciency thing, this book was always going to be interesting. James Kakalios does two things (in my mind): offer an interesting angle to get into science for those who aren't enamoured with the subject, and give those who like science an odd angle to view comic books.

Looking at the actual cause of Gwen Stacy's death still stands out - no idea why, I just really enjoyed that part.

Kakalios is witty and funny, joking thro
I am currently taking an intro-level Physics course for school and this book has been a fantastic resource. It has helped me to understand the concepts behind most of my homework as well as some of the math work for it. Furthermore, it has made the whole experience much more enjoyable since it involves some of my favorite superheroes. It's quite entertaining and the author does a fantastic job of explaining the principles for the layperson. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys comi ...more
Kakalios explains science through the context of superheroes. He takes standard theories and formulas, but his examples, rather than using balls or cars, use Superman or the Flash. By using superheroes for his scenarios, he makes the science more fun, and so easier to understand. Whether you like science or superheroes, it's an enjoyable read.
This book was so much fun. If you love comics and are in any way interested in physics, this book should be right up your alley. I have a pretty good basic understanding of physics so I never really got bogged down with much, that being said, I could see it being hard for someone who doesn't.

I like the author's style and his ability to present physics in a way that I had never even imagined could be done. Well done.
oh my gosh this book was so mcuh took physics fun to the max and let me tell you physics can be a very difficult thing to bring up to any level considered fun! i got my nerd on and i was like "physics with superheroes?! oh my gosh is this book talking about my favorite hero FLASH?!" the man who made this is soo cool and is actually a physics teacher..i wish he would be my teacher. i mean he uses actual terms and principles and not only explains them in an interesting way but in away the a ...more
Khalil James
Kakalios does a great job of keeping the reader entertained despite the book's "scientific rigor". He leaves out the unimportant details and keeps the reader engaged throughout the lives of many MARVELous superheroes we've grown to love over the years. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Kakalios discusses the amount of calories Flash would have to consume to be able to travel at the pace he does - exciting stuff. Surprisingly not all superheroes powers lie outside the reach of physics, ...more
Mar 30, 2008 Nick rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nerds
If you are a total nerd who loves superheroes, you will probably love this book. The biggest complaint for me was actually that a lot of the physics was pretty old hat for me, especially in the early chapters. But even that didn't drag very much, and I'll admit that the explanations of the quantum stuff really furthered my understanding. The real appeal of the book is the superheroes, of course. Professor Kakalios does a great job of exploring many super-powers from a physics perspective, and of ...more
Kyle Zufelt
I read this book expecting something similar to Michio Kaku's Physics of the Impossible - sort of a predictive book that would discuss current research in biotechnology and robotics. This book is actually a freshman level physics textbook, which uses specific comic book stories to illustrate basic physics principles. I am not a comic book fan, and I have a BS in Physics, so I am certainly not the audience that this book was intended for. The author claims success in using this material to teach ...more
I took a chance on this book, and I'm enjoying it. It explains the rules of physics using comic books, telling what is and what isn't possible in comics according to Newton and Einstein, (once you've accepted the notion that a man can fly, or run at superspeed, or invent webbing and not get rich from it).

The author is a prof at the University of Minnesota. He said his students would always ask what practical uses physics has in their lives, but when he started using superheroes to explain concep
This is a hugely entertaining and amazingly accessible look at how real world physics can be applied to the world of the superhero, from how Spiderman swings from buildings and Superman leaping buildings in a single bound to how Storm controls the weather and Magento and Electro can become interchangable in their abilities. Kakalios manages to take some of the more complicated aspects of physics (including a good dose of quantum mechanics) and makes them not just readable but also enjoyable (if ...more
John Ulrich
If you have ever enjoyed comic books and and you also enjoy physics, you will enjoy this book. Kakalios takes superhero abilities, dissects what it would take to make those abilities become reality, and uses the laws of physics to do it. He doesn't suppose the reader has any mathematical knowledge beyond algebra, so it's very friendly in that regard. Those of us not intimidated by math still find value in how he explains the different superhero phenomenon. You realize that comic books and physic ...more
A thuroughly entertaining read in all respects. I am in no means versed in physics but James Kakalios seems to have written this book with "dummies" like me in mind. Everything is simplified and told in easy to follow metaphores and math is for the most part kept at its simplest. I enjoyed the historical aspects more than anything else. Kakalios brings out stories of how equations and theories came into existance as well as a light but amazingly thurough history of both the comic book medium and ...more
Marco Delmastro
L'idea �� buona: usare i supereroi dei fumetti e i loro poteri come scusa prima e come strumento poi per spiegare la fisica e i suoi misteri. Simpatico all'inizio, diventa probabilmente un po' ripetitivo e dispersivo: essendo un fisico amante dei fumetti a volte avrei voluto di pi��... pi�� scienza, pi�� fumetti! La parte sulla fisica moderna e la meccanica quantistica �� in particolare deludente: si tira in ballo l'interpretazione dei molti mondi (che va benissimo con i "what if" dei fumetti, m ...more
Sara Rebora
Carino, molto chiaro e semplice. Kakalios riesce a far sembrare semplici ed ovvie cose ben più complicate. Consigliato per chi non se ne capisce molto di fisica ed è appassionato di fumetti.
Entertaining and approachable. I think I might have retained a little more about superheroes than I did about physics, but it did help to clear up some of the confusion I felt after reading The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Feel like I need some math, now-- algebra and geometry, and then maybe more chemistry, as well as more physics, to really understand everything! (Of course, with physics I get the impression that you never really und ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: ISBN - 1592401465 2 146 Jul 05, 2012 04:57PM  
  • The Science of Superheroes
  • Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed
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  • Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics
  • Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book
  • Hiding in the Mirror: The Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions, from Plato to String Theory and Beyond
  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to String Theory
  • Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean
  • The DC Comics Encyclopedia
  • The Ig Nobel Prizes
  • The Marvel Comics Encyclopedia: A Complete Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe
  • mental floss presents Condensed Knowledge: A Deliciously Irreverent Guide to Feeling Smart Again
  • Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight
  • How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival
  • Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way
  • Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero
  • The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines
  • The Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction
James Kakalios is a physics professor at the University of Minnesota. Known within the scientific community for his work with amorphous semiconductors, granular materials, and 1/f noise, he is known to the general public as the author of the book The Physics of Superheroes, which considers comic book superheroes from the standpoint of fundamental physics.
Kakalios, who earned PhD from the Universit
More about James Kakalios...
The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics: A Math-Free Exploration of the Science that Made Our World Teenagers from the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes Hey Kids, Comics!: True-Life Tales From The Spinner Rack Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero

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“There'd be no molecules, no chemistry and, hence, no life without static cling.” 3 likes
“At one point in the story, following a brazen daytime bank robbery, Electro is shown escaping from the authorities by climbing up the side of a building, as easily as Spider-Man . . . we see one observer exclaim, "Look!! That strangely-garbed man is racing up the side of the building!" A second man on the street picks up the narrative: "He's holding on to the iron beams in the building by means of electric rays—using them like a magnet!! Incredible!"

There are three feelings inspired by this scene. The first is wonder as to why people rarely use the phrase "strangely-garbed" anymore. The second is nostalgia for the bygone era when pedestrians would routinely narrate events occurring in front of them, providing exposition for any casual bystander. And the third is pleasure at the realization that Electro's climbing this building is actually a physically plausible use of his powers.”
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