Happy anniversary! Hard to believe it’s been a year, time flies! Batman v. Superman is just around the corner and soon we’ll be getting news about the other DC projects. Getting used to the schedule of a new semester, so no episode this week.
Here’s some RRSSS content for this week:
- Is Superman the most powerful superhero?
- Gladwell: Choice, Happiness, & Spaghetti Sauce – variety means more happiness overall
- Gladwell: The Pitfalls of Market Research – criticism is unreliable
- Choice Blindness – justifying disdain
- Gladwell: Expert Overconfidence – How Zod lost
- Can We Expand Our Consciousness with Neuroprosthetics? – MOS science consultant
- Physics of Superheroes – Watchmen science consultant
- First Biological Laser from Human Cells and Jellyfish Protein – dawn of heat-vision
- 5 Wealthiest People On The Planet Under 35 – Lex Luthor
- Vulture’s Secret History of Television: Superhero TV
Is Superman the most powerful superhero | Variant
I’m not sure I agree with the “limitless” idea purported by this video and ScrewAttack’s recent rematch, but I do believe that there’s something inherently special about being the first, most enduring, and constant superhero in a way that’s unique to Superman. In that sense, he’s the most powerful because while other characters will get lost to time, Superman’s place in history and legacy is secure. His constancy is what keeps him a relevant measuring stick of all superheroes, but his evolution is what keeps him a living and breathing character, rather than just a piece of history.
Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness, & Spaghetti Sauce | TED
I love sermons, lectures, speeches, and storytellers. Gladwell isn’t a scientist, but he’s masterful at weaving secular sermons out of real-world parables to prove a point. Here, Gladwell explains why diversity of choice was such a revelation. This revolution is one of the reasons I love different takes on all characters, especially the ones I love the most.
Malcolm Gladwell: The Pitfalls of Market Research | Pop!Tech
I cited this part of Gladwell’s book back when talking about the general preference for more saturated colors in a comparison test. This video elaborates on why you can’t always rely on what people say they want just by asking them, despite that being our [faulty] intuition on how to conduct market research. It helps explain why it’s worth keeping an open-mind about challenging new takes, why criticism is often loud but inaccurate, and how we’re very good at rationalizing our decisions after the fact, rather than them being the true narrative at how we arrived at our choice. Gladwell likes the swinging rope experiment, but I actually prefer this illustration:
Choice Blindness | BBC Horizon
Lars Hall and Peter Johansson ran an experiment where people pick a face, but before the face card is given to them, they swap the faces with sleight of hand and people would still rationalize the card handed to them but which they did not choose! Seems we are master storytellers to ourselves!
Malcolm Gladwell: Expert Overconfidence | High Point University
Last Gladwell video for today, but the must-watch of three this time around. In the choice blindness video you can see how we rationalize our choices after the fact and in this video, Gladwell explains how we can rationalize our victories before they’ve happened. He relates how seemingly objective superiority, experience, and competence, can lead to overconfidence, failure, and disaster. As the proverb says, pride comes before a fall. The triumph of values and humility over expertise and confidence. It applies rather readily to how Zod was defeated.
Can We Expand Our Consciousness with Neuroprosthetics – Malcolm MacIver | TED
Mentioning Malcolm so many times reminded me that one of Man of Steel‘s science consultants was Professor Malcolm MacIver. His talk here is a little dry but it reinforces what we talked about last episode (MOSAIC 30), about how humanity has innate difficulty in dealing with larger, abstract problems that go beyond our senses and our immediate self-interest (“me, here, now”), with issues like ecological concerns (“us, anywhere, forever”). Clark was raised to look at the big picture in a way that’s counter-intuitive to most of us. I’m curious if he consulting on Krypton’s machine-mind interfaces, its biology, its downfall, or what.
Physics of Superheroes | Dr. James Kakalios
Speaking of science consultants, Dr. James Kakalios is a great ambassador for physics and comics, probably best know for The Physics of Superheroes, but did you know he was the science consultant on Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (2009)? I don’t think it was Kakalios, but someone following his work, but I know I’ve watched a video where a professor takes his students through the math and science of Superman’s ability to leap 660 feet, uses it to extrapolate Krypton’s gravity as 15 times Earth’s, and subsequently conclude that Krypton had an unstable core made from a neutron star. You can read that excerpt here. If anyone knows where that video is please forward it to my attention or comment below with a link.
As I said, I understand Kakalios is using Superman as a framework to show how powerful physics can be as a tool given a single measurement (Superman’s leap) to understand a whole world of facts around it- and I love that, I eat that up, working within constraints and reconciling things is what I do both for work and play- however, I’m afraid many people have confused his pedagogy with hard Superman “facts”. Perhaps not seeing the distinction between, “Krypton can be calculated to have 15 times Earth’s gravity by this means” versus “Krypton HAS 15 times Earth’s gravity.”
If we were serious about the math, the model gets much more complex. The energy of Superman’s leap has to take into consideration energy lost based on the surface launching from (here, WIRED did an analysis of Hulk jumping, but they don’t calculate the energy lost in the launch only the effect on the concrete), the gravity of Krypton increases, and very quickly you have an [even more] impossible situation, where the the required density outpaces normal planetary matter. Neutron star matter is serious stuff. If you bring in the biological and material sciences, the idea of gravity only implicating strength quickly loses its luster as an elegant answer for strength on Superman’s level.
Under a factor of 2 or 3, it’s interesting color you can keep for the story, but as a core mechanic for explaining the powers it’s a mess. As one of the four fundamental forces in the universe, is it surprising that it probably implicates at lot more than just strength? Personally, I think it’s time to retire that explanation and I believe they did in Man of Steel. Krypton has higher gravity, but not nearly enough to be either observable or to justify the relative difference in strength. I’m not sure gravity proponents recognize that the intermolecular forces which bind matter together don’t change between the planets… never mind, I’ve rambled on this long enough!
Dr. Kakalios has been a guest on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk podcast, I’ll probably do a compilation clip show of their collective Superman insights soon.
Living Laser from Human Cells and Jellyfish Protein | Popular Science
If I indulge in the sort of fast and loose and imaginative science found above, allow me this older story on the world’s first “biological laser” as a means of explaining Superman’s heat vision. Not really, but you can see the leap, right?
Five Wealthiest People On The Planet Under 35 | Wall Street Journal
Perhaps a little insight into the DCCU’s Lex Luthor.
Vulture’s Secret History of Television – Superhero TV | New York Magazine
Can you believe how far we’ve come? I’m looking forwards to October’s offerings.