The superheroes we see in comic books and movies may seem like works of complete fantasy, but Dr. Jim Kakalios, physics professor at the University of Minnesota, says that more and more frequently movie directors are coming to scientists to consult on how to make those supernatural stunts realistic.
Movie-makers "don't want to make something that's 100 percent scientifically accurate... but rather they need to get it right enough that the audience buys into, and doesn't stop and question the suspension of disbelief that they made going into the film," said Dr. Kakalios.
"Anytime where an audience is looking at something and saying, 'That's not right,' is a moment where they're not paying attention to the story."
One of the characters that he has analyzed is Spider-Man, who in one movie scene catches and suspends a car off the Williamsburg Bridge in New York using only the spider webs he shoots from his wrists. According to Dr. Kakalios, the extraordinary qualities of real life spider silk, which is both stronger pound-for-pound than steel cable and more stretchy than nylon, mean that if it was created in enough quantity, could potentially achieve this stunt.
However, when it comes to the science behind the fantasy, some superhero scenes fall shorter than others. Batman's cape, for example, lacks the wingspan to set the Dark Knight gently on the ground after leaping off a Gotham skyscraper. His hang glider cape would, in reality, shatter his knees, Kakalios said.
However, in order to bring fiction closer to fact, Kakalios volunteers through a program run by the National Academy of Sciences called the Science and Entertainment Exchange, which helps match filmmakers with scientists on an as-needed basis. In July 2012, the group celebrated its 500th consult.
“Anytime where an audience is looking at something and saying, ‘That’s not right,’ is a moment where they’re not paying attention to the story,” - Jim Kakalios, University of Minnesota.
1. What are some powers that superheroes possess?
2. Do you think that the science in movies is accurate? Why or why not?
3. What do you know about spider silk?
1. What did you think was the most interesting part of this video? Why?
2. Which other superhero superpowers would you want to investigate? Why?
3. Do you think it is important for movies to include science that is as accurate as possible? Why or why not?
Lesson Plan: Science Of The Summer Olympics: Engineering In Sports:
Flying Cars Hit Market in 2012: