Book 135: The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios

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The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios

Finished reading on April 21st, 2014

Rating: 9/10

How to make physics less threatening and more relevant for everyday life? You add superheroes!

Well maybe it won’t really be everyday physics and considering all of the villains mentioned in the book, it might make one even too scared to go outside in a comic-book world.

In Kakalios’ “The Physics of Superheroes”, as the name suggests, you find out about the physical laws behind some of the abilities that superheroes have – jumping up high buildings, walking through walls, flying, shrinking themselves, etc. The physics ranges from simple classical mechanics and thermodynamics to electricity, magnetism, relativity and quantum mechanics. the mathematics necessary for understanding are however kept at low level – you can succeed in understanding everything if you’ve passed high-school algebra.

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for almost a year, the sheer size of it is more than some of the other “Science of …” or “Physics of …” books, and also I didn’t feel like I knew superheroes well enough to read it just yet. Now, after having watched all of the Superman and Batman movies (though not the animations or series), X-Men and Avengers etc. I felt I probably knew some of them. Alas, there were still superheroes and villains I hadn’t heard of, but it didn’t make much difference in the end, as there are some of the comic strips of the important scenes, so you get  the story.

I liked how it is fun to read this book – it’s not just this superhero can do this – x is the equation or law governing his power – he can/ can’t do that really. Rather you get to read the side of the comic book writers and real science and there are only rare equations, when they’re really necessary.

It’s not a textbook, so not every physics law is presented, but the content is fun, so I’d really recommend reading it, although if you’re going to be using the physics knowledge gained from this book while watching a superhero movie with friends they might not be too happy unless they also like to point out scientific inaccuracies.

It’s a great book! (And it  might make you want to find out more about superheroes.) Also  I don’t think that knowing about the scientific possibilities or improbabilities would take anything away from watching a movie or reading a comic-book, if for you it does, then maybe this book is not for you…

It reminded me of a lot of scenes from The Big Bang Theory series. Like this one:

 

I also did a short video review of it:

 

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Book 124: Wonder Woman Unbound by Tim Hanley

cover41632-medium Wonder Woman Unbound by Tim Hanley

Finished reading on March 31st, 2014

Published on April 1st, 2014 by Chicago Review Press

Rating: 9/10

Wonder Woman Unbound tells the story of how Wonder Woman came into being and how she and the comic books have changed over their 70-year-long history.

Wonder Woman began in the 1940-s as the first female superhero to have her own comic book, that in addition to the stories of her life and heroism, also had a short section in which every month a new important woman from history was introduced. Wonder Woman – an Amazon made out of clay by her mother Hyppolyta, who got superpowers depending on the story from the Olympian goddesses.

It was very interesting to read about how the comics were like in the 1940-s, where apparently there was a lot of bondage – Wonder Woman bound people up with her golden lasso, or was put into chains by someone else, and how that was received by the public and what happened afterwards. As Wonder Woman’s beginning falls into the Second World War era, she had a lot to do in the far – fighting the Japanese or German Nazis on her own, etc.

However as times changed, so did Wonder Woman, the writers and editors of the comic books. You can read about several reboots for the series with new origin stories, and different depictions of the Amazons and why are they living in an all-female society.

It is interesting, although sad to read about how the “Wonder Women of History” is substituted with short stories about superstitions about marriage, and advice on dressing and dancing. And Wonder Woman herself is changing as well, to conform to the times.

Although the book is about Wonder Woman, the reader gets more acquainted with a lot of other female superheroes and other characters in those comic books as well, since she is compared to them, for example in the way she is portrayed versus Lois Lane in Superman or for example, to Star Sapphire in Green Lantern, etc.

Despite Wonder Woman being the most famous (probably) female superhero, she isn’t really too popular, except as an icon for feminism.

Wonder Woman Unbound was certainly a fascinating read.

I have to admit though, that I knew nothing whatsoever about Wonder Woman before reading this book, except for the fact that she’s a brunette and that I knew because of The Big Bang Theory. Despite that, it was interesting to read, as in a way it combines the story of Wonder Woman and how women have been treated and what has been their role in society.

I received this book for review from the publisher via NetGalley.com