The Uncommon Core: Science Of Superheroes

Feb 26, 2015

Credit Sara Plourde / NHPR

  The Science of Superheroes

"Pretty much everything that superheroes do has to either conform or not conform to physics, depending on how they’re presented.  ome of the things they do make sense. Spiderman’s webs are, you know, spider webs – and spider webs are an amazing material and have a lot of great properties.  That gives us a really nice chance to talk about material science, springs, and elasticity. Other things you look at, you get to the conclusion, 'that doesn’t really make sense. It’s hard to imagine for instance where the Hulk gains all his excess mass."

"I’d say about a third to half of the class is the superhero part. And in that part [students are learning by] looking at a situation, knowing that you have a set of rules that apply--in this case physics--and developing the ability to analyze that situation in terms of the rules or the models given.  We’ve added two other portions of the class, a sort of math skills section, and then there’s a section on how the whole scientific process works.  Right now, we’ve just finished our last section on math, and we’ve just closed with “how to model the spread of zombie disease” in honor of The Walking Dead. " 

"Student reactions vary between being very excited about the course, and occasionally being very disappointed. We’ve gotten better about our advertising, so we get fewer students who think it’s going to be an easy course where they just watch The Avengers. If they’re really there just to watch superheroes, it becomes very obvious quickly, that that’s not what they’re going to get to do and they drop the course."