Defending Aquaman

This morning, Andrew Thaler (@SFriedScientist) over at Southern Fried Science posted a scathing, and some might say scurrilous, “science-based” attack on our beloved Aquaman. Not surprisingly, comic geeks have rushed to Aquaman’s defense (identities have been removed to protect their nerdiness):

Science and Comic Book Heroes

Best Incredible Hulk drawing ever!

Aquaman, of course, isn’t the only comic book hero to come under scientific scrutiny. The Incredible Hulk, for instance, has had his anatomy intrepreted, the physics of his jump analyzed, as well as his gamma ray-induced origins questioned. The Science of Superheroes even suggests an alternate origin for the Hulk based on experiments involving adrenal glands and green fluorescent protein. Similarly, the trajectory and velocity of Batman falling have been calculated. These are just a handful of examples, but you can find scientific analyses for many popular comic book heroes on the Internet. Just try this Google search formula: “(y of) + x,” where y = science, physics, or biology, and x = name of superhero.

What’s with science’s obsession with comic book heroes? Well for one, ALL scientists are comic book fans–I’m extrapolating, of course, from the fact that I am a biologist AND a comic book fan. Second, scientists love to think about brain-tantalizing problems. In fact, it’s basically what we’re preoccupied with all day–thinking about unexplained phenomena and then coming up with testable explanations. For us, comic books are an endless treasure trove of fantastic feats and incredible phenomena. So while it might appear like we’re all trying to ruin the fun, we’re really not. We just might love science a tad bit more than comic book heroes. And the fact that we can engage and illustrate scientific concepts to the public (excluding fanboys and apologists) with a readily an instantly relatable subject is an added bonus. Andrew Thaler could have simply wrote a blog post about physiological adaptations to life in the ocean, but bashing Aquaman provided a much more compelling framework to draw readers in.* After all, I think most would agree that comic book-themed physics problems sure beat this: 

A person standing on the edge of a 100 m high cliff drops a 0.5 kg stone vertically downwards. Determine the final velocity of the stone after falling 100m, and its kinetic energy.

*Updated 7.19.12

Featured image credit:

Links from the Facebook stream:


The Updated History of Aquaman’s Hands

MSS: Ep 132: Science of Superheroes – The Hulk

Gamma Rays: The Incredible, Hulking Reality


6 thoughts on “Dear Science, leave Aquaman alone!

  1. You’d have to spice up that word problem by saying ‘determine the final velocity of the stone after falling 100m, before it strikes someone’s head’.

    1. Priceless: “If I can teach a homicidal maniac like the Green Goblin about forces and motion, I’m making a difference,” he said.

      I think the closest I came to in terms of courses like these during undergrad was A History of Videogames. I could see a class examining the physics of early video games since modern games are getting more realistic in terms of physics.

      1. I once taught t-tests by having students compare the average weight of an Ottawa Senators player to a Maple Leafs player. I also taught an entire modelling class using points and age to predict salary. It worked quite well!

        Mission for this semester: Work in a Batman reference!

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