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February 19, 2010

How scientific are superheroes?

Posted: 04:02 PM ET

You've probably had moments watching science fiction films when you thought, "Naw, that couldn't happen." And it's true - sci-fi movies often contain elements that don't conform to the laws of physics.

But modern science can say a lot about the plausibility of such things as stopping an asteroid from destroying the planet, and these are teachable moments, experts said today at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science in San Diego, California.

Take the asteroid example: films such as "When Worlds Collide" are good about estimating the impact of celestial objects hitting our planet, said Sidney Perkowitz, Emory University physicist and author of "Hollywood Science." In real life, the Tunguska Event, in which a meteor hit part of Siberia, Russia, in 1908, decimated hundreds of square miles of forest.

The Barringer Crater in Arizona, nearly a mile wide, was also created by a meteor. Science fiction movies, however, often incorrectly portray the "save the day moment," since not even an H-bomb has the power to deflect an asteroid, he said.

The powers of superheroes and villains do bring up important concepts in physics, said James Kakalios, technical consultant on the recent "Watchmen" movie and a physicist at the University of Minnesota. For instance, quantum tunneling - the idea that particles can pass through energy barriers - is how Dr. Manhattan teleports in "Watchmen" and how Kitty Pryde walks through walls in "X-Men." Dr. Manhattan's blue color can be explained through a phenomenon called Cerenkov radiation, he said, with the blue glow resulting from the leakage of high-energy electrons.

Believability is important to filmmakers because they don't want viewers' attention to drift away from the story, Kakalios said. He noticed, for instance, that in "Iron Man," Tony Stark is using the correct soldering tool and in the right way. "So you're not thinking about Robert Downey Jr. playing a role, you're thinking about Tony Stark making an Iron Man suit," he said.

You can watch Kakalios' popular YouTube video about the science of "Watchmen" to learn more. And watch for more on the science of superheroes on Monday on

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Comic Fan   February 19th, 2010 6:51 pm ET

This could be an interesting segment to watch. Most articles, publications and other medium used to address the correlation between fantasy and reality, ie super hero physics or even super heroes and psychology, tend to pose such interesting insights into the why and how something so unbelievably could be brought into the realm of probability... the gateway to Actuality.

SpoonMan   February 19th, 2010 7:13 pm ET

Interesting article. They are on to something with believability, I usually lose attention in a movie if I find myself saying "no way".

A cool read to coincide with the article is Science of Superheroes, a fun book

he who loves super heros   February 19th, 2010 8:17 pm ET

kakalios wrote an entire book on the physics and physiolog of superheroes. it's quite entertaining to read and i recommend it to all who like comic books and comic movies.

the name of the book is "the physics of superheroes"

John   February 19th, 2010 10:36 pm ET

To be honest, does anyone actually care about this?

Is this really world news?

Timetraveller   February 20th, 2010 12:45 am ET

"The Laws of Physics", these laws are only good here on the planet Earth. Once you leave the influence on this planet, things begin to change. Once you leave the influence of this Solar System, things begin to change. To allow for these changes, which often are ambiguous, we now have the term "Quantum Physics". By simply saying the name, the reaction is, "Ah, yes I see."

If you were to look back into SciFi history you would find today inventions that were said to be impossible. Nothing is impossible and I mean absolutely nothing. It is only that we have not yet found the answer or the solution is not profitable at this time.

True Science is the realm of Nothing is Impossible. The True Scientist is the person who does not seek profit but instead the advancement of all living Entities.

SciFi is the beginning, it is the idea. Don't be afraid to dream as wildly as possible, because someone, somewhere, on this planet or another, will make your dream come true.

How do I know? Simple: Been There, Done That!!

Andreas   February 20th, 2010 4:32 am ET

John, I care. If you don't want to read it, why click on the link, and then comment? I would much rather get too many reading options than too few.

Timetraveller, the laws of physics are by definition valid anywhere in the Universe. They don't change as you leave the Earth or the Solar System. Whether humans completely understand the laws of physics is another matter.

The_Mick   February 20th, 2010 6:16 am ET

Timtraveller wrote: "The Laws of Physics", these laws are only good here on the planet Earth. Once you leave the influence on this planet, things begin to change...To allow for these changes, which often are ambiguous, we now have the term "Quantum Physics"."

That's preposterous and no scientists, including those who taught me Quantum Chemistry and Modern Physics, would spout such nonsense. In fact, the rate at which distant galaxies rotate have verified the UNIVERSAL gravitational constant. And the effects of Quantum Mechanics are less pronounced on a huge scale than on a sub-microscopic scale.

The_Mick   February 20th, 2010 6:20 am ET

When scientists get together and watch sci-fi films, you can count on argument after argument about the plausibility of much of the action. And it even gets down to criticism of special effects. While watching "Independence Day", I can recall some of us arguing over the fact that the reflection of the Sun off the huge spaceship over L.A. did not appear to obey the rule that the angle of incidence = angle of reflection.

ShaneC   February 20th, 2010 9:48 am ET

More than anything we need to realize that SciFi and movies in general are nothing more than a couple hours of an escape. You forget most of your worries and can live in the moment, see things that a person doesn't normally see on a day to day basis.
You can look at most of the scientific advancements, even the small ones, and see that what was once science fiction is now fact shows that we are limited only by ourselves.
Going into full nerd; we have seen or heard of Warp Drive and the like from Star Trek and immediately say "No way!" "Can happen" but keep in mind that new propulsion systems are in development and we already have Ion thrusters which at one time were unthinkable. Now obviously I am not a Rocket Surgeon or a college professor so I have no clue how long it would take to go from Ion thrusters to Warp drive but if we have come this far, who's to say we can't take it to the next level?
Money is one obstacle, acceptance is another. Even scientists have a hard time selling theories to big companies in an effort to get funding for their research simply because it is not the norm or in tune with society. I agree with Timetraveller in that true scientists do not seek profits but instead seek the advancement of all living entities.
Just my two cents.

NWHippie   February 20th, 2010 10:43 am ET

I found the article under the Tech section, not World News. Get over your bad self John.


Areyoukidding   February 20th, 2010 10:50 am ET

Timetraveller? Are you kidding? Are you a nut?

First of all, the laws of physics are NOT "only good here on the planet Earth. By their very nature they describe physics EVERYWHERE. That is how we learn about and understand the world around us, including extraterrestrial bodies.

Second, upon leaving the influence of the earth or solar system, you are correct, things change. But, the are NOT ambiguous. The laws of physics describe the changes very precisely. If the ambiguity that you refer to is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, then you should know that these affects are only noticed at the subatomic level and have extremely little effect at the planetary or even human size objects. The laws of physics predict behaviors very well, with no "ambiguities".

Thirdly, when you say that "True Science is the realm of Nothing is Impossible", you are making statements more as an evangalist than as a scientist. Any good scientist knows of course that there most certainly are things that are impossible. In fact, that is what most of science is about, telling us what can NOT happen more often than what can happen. Einstein's Theory of Relativity predicts not only what CAN happen (light bent by the space/time of the sun), but also predicts what can NOT happen (nothing in the vacuum of space can travel faster than the speed of light).

Lastly, if "Been There, Done That!!" means that you have been off of your meds before and had another relapse, then that may be the one statement you make that I can agree with!

Loren in CA   February 20th, 2010 10:59 am ET

The least believable part of X-Men 3, at least to me, had nothing to do with mutant super-powers. I was unable to believe the final scene, in which the Golden Gate Bridge was being rebuilt within perhaps *six months* of when it was torn apart. In the Bay Area, where it's going to take a total of 16-17 years to replace the east end of the Bay Bridge after a piece of it fell apart in the Loma Prieta quake, it would take 3-6 *years* just to decide whether to replace the bridge at all, and we'd still be arguing what it would look like. No, it's easier to believe in guys shooting force beams from their eyes.

Umm, No   February 20th, 2010 4:50 pm ET

Actually Timetraveller, the laws of physics as we know them are universal, independent of whether you are within Earth's gravitational field or even within the solar system. Quantum Mechanics/Physics is not limited to the realm of the intergalactic. Quite the opposite – it deals with investigating matter at the very small scale.

However, with that said, I agree with you about much of scifi from the past is now scifact. Who can forget that Darth Vader is 'more machine than man'... and now, look at how far robotic limbs have advanced!

Shannon   February 20th, 2010 8:33 pm ET

There was also a great show on the History Channel about the plausibility of Spider-Man. Also, recent news regarding the Pentagon is interesting as well regarding the reality of superhero "powers." Think about did scientists invent velcro? 😀


Christian   February 20th, 2010 8:55 pm ET

Given the complexity of the universe, from the existence and definition of life and consciousness, to black holes, to subatomic's clear that God is capable of amazing things, and as time moves on, I'm sure He will allow us to do more than we currently think possible.

Personally, I'd be more than satisfied with walking on [liquid] water. Just a few yards without sinking would totally blow my mind.

ryanmercer   February 20th, 2010 9:25 pm ET

That was a poor excuse for an article... sure it had decent info, but should have had MORE content.

Herby Sagues   February 21st, 2010 12:48 am ET

Timetraveller: Uh, no. The laws of physics don't change when you leave the earth. They don't change when you leave the solar system. They don't even change the slightest bit when you leave the galaxy. It is possible that they change if you leave this universe and go to another universe, but that's not relevant in this discussion.

Herby Sagues   February 21st, 2010 12:52 am ET

Timetraveller: and one more thing: science is the realm of the possible, not of the impossible. Some scientists might be wrong when they say that something is impossible (though no serious scientist would ever say that without qualifying it with an explicit or implicits "based on our current knowledge"). But when science indicates that somethign is impossible history proves that you have almost certainty that it will never be possible. Yes, some claims made in the past by some scientists about the feasibility of something have proven wrong. But well over 99.99% of the claims about the feasibility of some phenomena according to current science remain accurate today.

Sean Webb   February 21st, 2010 3:27 am ET

Science fiction isn't the only genre that pushes the boundaries of physics and logic. Watch any of the James Bond and Mission Impossible films and you will see highly trained secret agents bouncing off of sky scrapers or sliding on pavement. No amount of training can stop flesh from tearing and bones from breaking. And I don't think Q has created a pair of pants that hold up to the type of abuse 007 puts them through. At the very least we should see his boxers sticking out of his tattered tux.

Syn   February 21st, 2010 4:44 am ET

Actually, in the Tunguska Event, the meteor did not make contact with the Earth. It exploded roughly three miles ABOVE the ground. If it had, in fact, hit the ground, the effects would have been far different including higher and more prominent debris and dust clouds, and a far more distinguished crater.

Britt   February 21st, 2010 8:07 am ET

He lost me with 'decimated hundreds of square miles of forest'. I stopped reading.
If you are going to talk technical, know what the words mean you are using. You can not talk technically without being literal.

I do not think the event caused the trees to be dishonored; impelling them draw lots to see which 10% would be clubbed to death by the rest.

jayman419   February 21st, 2010 9:55 am ET

I love timely posts about movies from last year, books from the last decade, and space disaster movies created six years before Sputnik.

Oh, and I especially liked how the author basically ignored the topic in the title to discuss asteroids for most of the article. Superhero movies are their own genre, and usually don't bear much in common with "hard" sci-fi. Why bother to mix them? No superhero has the special ability "stop asteroids from hitting earth" and no superhero movie has had such a plot point. Talk about people able to set themselves on fire, or manipulate magnetism, or the likelihood of "gamma rays" or whatever actually turning you into the Hulk or Dr Manhattan instead of a pile of goo, or x-ray vision that doesn't kill people, or Batman and Superman being able to catch people who fall from tremendous heights without hurting them, despite the sudden stop in their arms that must not be that different from a sudden stop on concrete. And even your 'expert' claims that Iron Man is good because Tony Stark can weld, despite the character being able to fly with just a couple of tiny little flames under his heel being his only propulsion.

But if you want to talk about inaccurate Hollywood physics in general, you don't need to go back to the dawn of the space age to find some movies. Just look at the entirety of "Mission to Mars", for example, which just ten years ago (I guess you'd call that recent, too, right?) had people stopping in space as soon as their fuel ran out and complex formations of candy rotating together around a single point and a hundred other problems.

Or sound in space, like the sonic space mines in "Attack of the Clones". Or other mistakes like the rocket falling over without damage then launching on homemade fuel in "The Astronaut Farmer".

Or any movie where the bad guy gets "blown away" by a gun that leaves the hero standing, or....

Seriously I could go on all day. Why didn't you spend a minute looking into this before you started writing?

SuRTuR   February 21st, 2010 10:03 am ET

great read it's cool to see that alot of the things in sci-fi movie in the 30's-50's and so forth have came true lasers,hadron collider,and others I'm sure,were not quite the jetsons yet but its comming,superheros with genetic engineering on a black ops level who knows whats really out there.

Robin   February 21st, 2010 3:39 pm ET


Actually the laws of physics apply through out our entire universe. If there are other universes, the laws of physics may be different there.

shak   February 21st, 2010 7:42 pm ET

this guy, time traveler is absolutely uneducated...................and, trying to sound like he knows what he's talking about. he's read some sci-fi books and watched a bunch of sci-fi movies, picked up some words from there. besides what others have already pointed out above, here's the another one, "quantum physics" has nothing to do with the planets/solar systems. quantum physics is the physics that deal with the particles @ the atomic level/scale. physics that deal with planets and stars is called astrophysics.

Jessy   February 21st, 2010 8:42 pm ET

To John: In reference to his comment about anyone caring for news like this:

I care. I like to read a lot about tech stuff and my source of reading about them doesn't have to come from science-specific communities and the like. In fact, I'm glad CNN is posting articles like this because right now I'm getting tired of reading about political bickering in Washington or about some celebrity committing a sin. Every once in a while, I like to read something unrelated in CNN.

And I don't believe I'm the only one doing this.

Jessy   February 21st, 2010 8:57 pm ET

Right now, it's hard to tell what is possible and what is not.

So far, we humans managed to find planets of various types in some of the most unusual orbits or states.

For starters, we found a planet that is much like Jupiter, but is orbiting its star far closer than Mercury would to ours and at much greater speeds without loosing its planetary structure.

Also, we found a planet that is filled with water, but the water is so dense, ice forms at the bottom first and it's too dense for life to exist in.

We even found a strange hexagonal formation on the north pole of Saturn and the folks at NASA are having a tough time still figuring out how it got that way?

One more thing, we even found multiple planets orbiting a Pulsar.

To our current understanding of physics, none of the above should ever be happening, yet there they are in plain sight mocking our scientific beliefs.

I guess this is a good thing because it forces us to push our own understanding of physics to the very limits and beyond.

jimbo   February 21st, 2010 9:17 pm ET


You mean like this definition?

Main Entry: dec·i·mate
Pronunciation: \ˈde-sə-ˌmāt\
3 a : to reduce drastically especially in number b : to cause great destruction or harm to

Maybe you should look up the definition of ironic.

TR   February 21st, 2010 10:08 pm ET

Lost me there Britt.

David   February 21st, 2010 11:49 pm ET


The details of the "Laws" are changing everyday and we have no idea of what the laws are outside of the solar system...

Thomas   February 22nd, 2010 1:59 am ET


The laws of physics breakdown in black holes, not the further away you get from Earth.

Louise   February 22nd, 2010 3:29 am ET

Being a scientist, I've always wondered how my fellow scientists can look for answers to phenomena that don't seem to follow the "laws" of science we currently know, when they state "That can't happen, because the "law" states.......". The existence of science fiction supports people like myself who are really searching for the answers, unburdened by the current "laws". By the way, the same thing happens in the social sciences. I once asked why people can't continue to work after the "retirement" age of 65 in France. The answer? Because there's a "law" against it. Laws change – in all areas! If we don't want to be like horses wearing blinders stumbling through life, those laws are made to change. Changing laws leads to real progress.

TDJ   February 22nd, 2010 4:08 am ET

Here are some superheroes shortfalls:
– If one went invisible, they would also be blind because light would travel straight through their retinas.
– If one shrunk to the size of an atom, they could not breath because oxygen molecules would be too big.

Berticlez   February 22nd, 2010 8:56 am ET

The Book of the Law. Read it.

Britt   February 22nd, 2010 9:10 am ET

What is that about people thinking and people knowing? DSITW

With a articles tag including ‘How Scientific’? The irony was too deep for you I think.
I find no need to look up irony or any other word I will use. I am overwhelmed, nay decimated, with the dose of irony you have added. Many things used without reading the instructions are dangerous; to include the dictionary. Does that blue my credentials for irony?
I assume your comment was a snarky attempt at humor; giving you the benefit of the doubt. I find it just too ironic I failed to communicate the irony. You are questioning my accuracy when I am talking about precision. How scientific? … How Scientific! As a comedian I fail as I seem only to amuse myself.
I found the mental image of the forest drawing lots rather humorous myself. I would not think it is nitpicking as it is written as a technical article. Maybe you could not let a chance to carp pass by without quibbling? Top quadratic irony my lokinite comrade. I am rather sanguine in my choleric depiction. I could not let the humorous image slide either. 6th power irony! I amaze myself. Maybe you would like to debate my word choices? I know your running out of digits. I can be snarky too, sans dictionary.
I tend to drift off on tangents. That ADD is a curse.
Notice you neglected to list definitions 1 and 2, went right to the 3rd definition, then failed to understand the connotation.
The root of the word means reduced by a tenth or 10%. What they were describing was 100% destruction. Deca-decimated would be redundant, but accurate. Decimated is second only with literally for being often misused to my limited knowledge.
The ‘deci’ root is tenth, like decimeter, decigram, or deciliter. The severity is connotation from its use as punishment. Great damage to honor and reputation of a military unit; the worst possible outcome. This meaning applies to people and organizations if you are being precise, nay scientific. Applied to anything else it means a 10% loss; which is a substantial, significant or if you like ‘great’ loss. For the statement to follow would have to be speaking figuratively. Being figurative to shoehorn in an SAT word in a supposedly scientific discussion? May as well have said ‘kicked the ass of hundreds of square miles of forest’. It would make the same amount of sense, be easier to understand, and fit just as well in a technical article.
This word is commonly misused and a pet peeve of mine. If they want to use BIG words of archaic origin: ones that fit better would be obliterated or destroyed. My choice would be razed as the trees were all knocked flat to the ground over the area. That the literal meaning and the connotation would be accurate to the situation and allow them to use and obscure but not unknown word.
My apologies if I bored anyone with my sanguine humor. I do try to adjust the way I view the world, but I usually fail.

eclectos   February 22nd, 2010 9:27 am ET

Rant begins: I don't know where you got your definition, jimbo, but that "deci" in decimate refers to "one tenth" (as in decimeter) and it comes directly from the Latin because what @Britt described is what the Romans used to do.

These days, it seems even dictionaries can't get it right and common poor usage becomes acceptable. For those of us who actually speak English, it is sad to see words like decimate (to remove 1/10), deprecate (express disapproval) and, my personal bet noire, momentarily (FOR a moment, not IN a moment), abused.

Language is an attempt to convey information accurately between people. Misusing words just increases the chances of misunderstanding. Professional journalists, of all people, should be using words correctly as they have more need to convey information accurately and because they greatly influence how others speak and choose words.

Rant over, back on topic. I'm all for accurate science in movies. Just one bit of physics where every super-hero (and quite a few ordinary folk) fail miserably: If you grab hold of someone who is falling any distance it will NOT be a soft landing. Having Superman swoop down and reverse your direction just before you hit the ground is no better than hitting the ground, you'd still break just about every bone in your body, most importantly your neck. And if you were to grab a railing (even supposing you could get your fingers round it while dropping at 100+ mph), you would only succeed in ripping your arms out of their sockets while the rest of you continued to fall.

But hey, it's only a movie.

Brigitte   February 22nd, 2010 10:41 am ET

Timetraveller – you're thnking about Newtonian phyisics. Quantum physics is at the micro level – in simplistic terms – the study of the basic components that make up everything and how they interact within atomic structures. For the study of physics at the macro level Newtonian physics works well enough to get man to the moon and back and to send probes to Jupiter and Saturn. Special relativity and general relativity also cover macro physics and explain things that Newtonian physics could not – like gravity. M-theory (unification of the 5 string theories) promises to unite micro and macro physics. Furthermore, there is at least one thing which is impossible, whether you want to accept it or not – nothing is faster than light – NOTHING. Moreover, nothing can approach the speed of light. There isn't enough energy in the universe to allow this. There are ways to "get around" this, like worm holes (folding space) if we can figure out how to create and control them. The energy requirement is not infinite but it is greater than anything we can produce with today's technology. Finally, the best Sci-Fi stories play by the rules. Star Trek assumed that we figured out how to fold space (warp it) using warp drives. That's okay. It is not against the laws of physics.

James Lee   February 22nd, 2010 10:49 am ET

I wish somebody to answer a question from my 3 years old grand-son Dennis.
Yesterday was a bright sunny Sunday, after having lunch(Chinese yum- cha) while we were walking to get our car Dennis look up at the sky and said hey! grand-pa why the moon is missing a piece?(it was a half-moon) added can we go and find the missing piece? Sorry Dennis I told him grand-pareally don't know how to explain this.
In as much as my knowledge can tell me there is only one moon in the whole wide world; and if we can see a half-moon in broad day light in this part of the earth I wandered in the other side of earth(Asia) are they looking at the same moon that we are seeing? If so, the why it seems so close in here?

eleganterica   February 22nd, 2010 11:00 am ET

How about getting rid of the one stupid thing in movies that always drives me nuts? In space, if there is a leak or the hatch door opens then you are NOT "blown out" like they always show. Why can't the writers EVER get this right? There is no giant force sucking you out.

Jenny   February 22nd, 2010 11:02 am ET

Britt you are obviously only familiar with 1 definition of decimate. As used in the article it is correct.

Secret Squirrel   February 22nd, 2010 12:19 pm ET

THE Superhero's Physics Explained

Mike   February 22nd, 2010 12:22 pm ET

The basic unit of a Roman Legion was the "tent", which had 10 men in it. (The Legion's equivalent of a "squad".) Members of the same tent served together for years and probably got very close. if they commited a severe crime (i.e. mutiny), all members of a tent would draw lots and the loser would be beaten to death by his tent brothers. Thus, "decimate" means kill one in ten.

Decimating a forest means killing only ten percent of it; this isn't very serious.

The author of this piece used "decimate" in the current sloppy excuse for proper English that Journalists seem so fond of...

Mr.Moo   February 22nd, 2010 12:30 pm ET

@David and @Timetraveller: Yes we do know about laws outside the Solar System. "How?" you might ask? Because the light from far away objects (stars, nebula, galaxies, etc.), has been gathered and analyzed and can be compared with studies done here on Earth.

@Jessy Perhaps an explanation may be found in satellite observations of Hurricane Isabel from 2003, wherein the storm’s eyewall alternated between pentagonal and hexagonal formations through unique combinations of smaller rotational features called mesovortices; showing us that even home grown storms can test and inevitably improve our equations of motion.

Charles   February 22nd, 2010 12:50 pm ET


Glad to see I wasn't the only one to cringe at the misuse of "decimate" when the writer intended to use a word like "devastate".

Melissa   February 22nd, 2010 1:09 pm ET

I've never understood how anyone in these articles can ever say "never". Remember, we're almost all walking around with Star Trek communicators in our pockets, only we call them cell phones. There was a time when that was considered fiction. And for gods sakes, Sony just came out with an organic television (OLED) thats literally only 3 millimeters thick. Thats like a tenth of an inch. Not even. Just because we think something is impossible now doesn't mean it will be impossible later. Never say never. Our scientists never cease to amaze me.

Michael D. Houst   February 22nd, 2010 1:42 pm ET

Actually, true science is not the realm of Nothing is Impossible; it's the realm of testing our environment to see if our understanding of it is correct. To the true scientist, profit and advancement of anyone are both irrelevant; only getting to the truth matters.

The statements, "the laws of physics apply through out our entire universe", and "these laws are only good here on the planet Earth" are both in doubt. They ARE subject to scientific testing to determine their truth or falsity. So far, we haven't found the laws physics to be any different on the surface of our planet, the moon, outer space, in the interior of our sun, or anywhere else in our galaxy. There is a theory that the laws may have changed as the universe aged, but there's no proof at the moment.

And as for asteroid deflection, nuclear explosions would easily do the trick for a dinosaur killer. A 0.15 kiloton explosion would impart an approximately 16 m/s sideways velocity to a 10 km/6 million kg asteroid (depends on how much of the asteroid is vaporized to form reaction mass). Which should move the asteroid a full earth diameter sideways in about 1 month.

Liam   February 22nd, 2010 2:00 pm ET

Britt was referring to the historic origin of decimate in I believe Roman times.

Never sell your scientists, or writers short, much of what is todays science fact began as science ficiton, and not just 30's-50's sci-fi. Remember the communicators from Star Trek? The 'old' flip phones are pretty much the same, and they're outdated by our standards now. The ion drive is in experimental stages, and has been sci-fi standard for years (not that it does much here on good old Earth, it produces about enough thrust to lift a piece of paper, but out of our gravity well, and over a significant time period it gets the job done with little fuel used).

Scientists derive inspiration from where they will, be it sci-fi, or just noticing something in nature and thinking 'what if?'. They then systematically go about investigating if they can fulfill their inspiration, and using scientific method do so with some degree of safety and provability.

Carl   February 22nd, 2010 4:20 pm ET


Of course we have ideas about how the laws operate outside hte solar system. We apply them every day, from gross level Newtonian physics to quantum mechanical models of particle behaviors. While some of the math may be changing , the fundamental behaviors of the universe pretty much remain the same wherever you happen to be in it.


Yes, we discovered new planets, and they may seem strange but they still follow Kepler's laws of motion for satellites. I don't know hwere you heard about his mysterious "water planet" but unless it's next door, we could not presently much beyond the existence of water. H2O, by the way, has interesting properties, including very low compressibility. Ice, having density of about 0.9 of liquid water, might form at the "bottom" if the local surface were cold enough, but would still tend to rise.

You two are not scientists nand should not try to play one here.

WM   February 22nd, 2010 4:50 pm ET


I'm with you buddy - but on the other hand - words change over time and I fear the original meaning of "decimated" is gone with the solar wind.

mike   February 22nd, 2010 6:14 pm ET

"To be honest, does anyone actually care about this?

Is this really world news?"

To answer your question, yes and yes.

publius enigma   February 22nd, 2010 6:37 pm ET

About 2 levels less scientific than the average sci-fi novel, but 2 levels above the national enquirer?

mrmath2u   February 22nd, 2010 8:27 pm ET

Timetraveller- Take a middle school science course, PLEASE.

STARG8TR   February 22nd, 2010 9:25 pm ET

Nothing is impossible.... except two way travel through an artificially created wormhole. Zowie! That Colonel Doctor Miss Samantha Carter is Smart!

Darth Draodus   February 23rd, 2010 9:52 am ET

Every thing does change outside our system we our selves think what is on our earth is the only way things could happen we don't know that the galexy of STARWARS could even exist out there in the universe or in an alternete universe but we don't know every thing their could even be beings made of pure energy living on stars we don't know all we know is what happened and what happens on this plant be wise the force controls all we are only the dust in the wind

ivan gomez   February 23rd, 2010 11:45 pm ET

wait a minute everyone!!!!!!! are you saying star trek, heroes and fringe is not real!!!!!!!!!!!.....

Jessy   February 24th, 2010 12:12 pm ET

@Mr. Moo

I didn't say I was a scientist. I got my information from the History Channel. I think the series that talked about the water planet was "The Universe". You can find the episode on iTunes.

Technology News For 21st February 2010 | Jason Slater Technology Blog | Industry News   March 24th, 2010 10:41 am ET

[...] CNN Tech: How scientific are superheroes? [...]

Spencer Shein   April 24th, 2010 1:05 am ET

Spencer Shein

bob   October 6th, 2010 10:38 am ET

hi I liked it it's just it needs a little pasase.

bob   October 6th, 2010 10:41 am ET

I think super heros are a little scientific

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You have to love it! Great ideas for a post CNN. Lets talk about the idea quantum tunneling – the idea that particles can pass through energy barriers. Is a pretty nasty thought. I think what ever team makes this a reality will be my super hero's.:)

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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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