The Secret Science of Superheroes

Do you like science? Are you a comic geek? If your answer to both questions is “yes”, then “The Secret Science of Superheroes” is your book!

Last August I got myself an autographed copy of “The Secret Sicence of Superheroes”, thanks to Dr David Jesson and Dr Mark Whiting (University of Surrey) and I must say I don’t regret it at all! The book is distributed by the Royal Society of Chemistry and it was edited by Mark Lorch and Andy Miah. When I first heard about this book, Dr David Jesson told me that the whole thing was completed in just one weekend during an event in Manchester and that each chapter was written by a different author and it related a specific superheroe topic with the author’s field of expertise. Interesting, right?

I would review every single chapter, I really would, but… then you wouldn’t read the book! So, I’m just going to talk very briefly about the things I enjoyed the most. Basically, the text is written for a general audience, introducing the scientific concepts as the authors try to make their point.

I must say that the first chapter hooked me completely: what a great way to start! Mark Lorch explains the diet that Spider-Man (one of my favourite heroes) should have in order to be able to produce his silk webs. I know that for most people from the 90s, Spider-Man did not produce the web: he developed some devices and used chemistry for the supplies. But it is true that in some comics from the Marvel Universe, Peter Parker had the ability to produce the webs from his wrists! Anyway, you’ll need to read the whole thing if you want to find out what Mr Parker should eat in order to combat crime every day! That being said, I’ve got a very tiny correction for Professor Lorch: on the very first page of the book, it is said that Spider-Man lives in Metropolis… He lives in New York! Superman is the one who lives in Metropolis! I’ll forgive you though, the content was quality!

Another brilliant chapter, in my modest opinion, is the one about “The Hallmarks of Hulk”, by Isabel Pires. I found it amazing how the author relates Hulk’s transformation process to cancer cells! Really interesting to learn new things in a “funny” way from a serious topic which is quite far from my field. My 10/10 for this chapter!

Moving on to a topic that I am more familiar with, in the book there’s also space for a “real world super metal”. Paul R. Coxon talks about lithium, its applications in batteries (currently used in electric vehicles) and where it can be found. He does all of that while using a clever analogy with Doctor Manhattan (I’ve never followed the adventures of this superheroe, but he appeared in the movie “Watchmen”). This is definitely a must read chapter if you want to learn more about this incredible material and its history.

Finally, I would like to talk about one of the chapters which was written by an author from the University of Surrey. In this case, I’m going to express my opinion about Suze Kundu’s “Science of Super Suits”. Please, don’t take it the wrong way: the arguments used in the chapter are totally valid, but I just cannot agree with the conclusions… Basically, the chapter makes a comparison between two superheroes who only have one “superpower”: money! What made me enjoy this part of the book so much is the fact that it is about a battle which has been out there for ages: Batman vs Iron Man, DC vs Marvel! Pretty much, the author uses science to analyse their suits and then comes to a coclusion… I reckon this is quite subjective, even more when Dr Kundu actually states that she might be biased by her preference for Marvel… just saying! According to her, Iron Man would win this battle, but I resist to believe that. Why? Well, because Batman is my favourite superheroe: great comics, the best animation TV series ever made about a superheroe, the best trilogy of superheroe movies (thank you Christopher Nolan!) and a hilarious old TV show (who doesn’t remember the “BOOOM!” whenever there was a punch?). That being said, another subjective reason for me to prefer Batman is his supercars! And yes, I used the plural… It is true that Tony Stark owns a nice car too, but his Audi R8 cannot compete againts Bruce Wayne’s Lamborghini Murcielago! That is obvious. And then we also have the Batmobile, which I personally classify as an “ultracar” (supercars and hypercars already exist, and this vehicle plays in a different league). Honestly don’t take it personally, I love a good nerd discussion and this chapter made me think about science even more just because I wanted to demonstrate how awesome Batman is.

So, as I said at the beginning, if you like comics and science, you need to read this book! Easy to read, it makes you laugh and hopefully you’ll learn something new!

My apologies to David and Mark for not writing about their chapters, but I reckon they’re engaging with the audience through their blogs and events! And thanks for suggesting a chapter about supercars in a potential second book!


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