Randomly Related Slightly Salient Stuff 6

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.

Assorted Fan Art | Various

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  1. Hi Doctor, sorry to ask you another question so soon, and a very long one, but I need to get it out of my chest.

    First let me tell you something; in the Superman Homepage Website there have been a pair of trolls/haters who simply don’t stop bashing MoS and BvS, I usually ignore them and don’t give importance to their whining. However, recently I have noticed that some of their bad claims turned out to be true.

    When the George Miller rumor came out, one of them was quick to point out that it’s just a rumor, and that it would be debunked the next day. And just as he said, the day after the “new” of the Superman Solo sequel being in ‘permanent hold’ spread like wildfire.

    Not only that, that same haters go as far as taking the rumors of the supposed Bat-Trilogy starring Ben Affleck and the one that says WB wants to make Batman the core of the entire DCEU as facts. Those haven’t been confirmed, however, recent reports on the DC Cinematic subsection of Reddit are heavily implying that they will.

    And if that wasn’t enough, a solo Batman film has been confirmed to be in development twice, but we haven’t heard absolutely no real announcements or development news of the Superman solo sequel that was announced alongside the current movie schedule.

    I know you don’t pay attention to rumors, and I’m not asking you to, nor I want you to go to the Homepage and shut the haters, I just want to ask your honest answer of my following question:

    Do you think that DC and or WB still cares about Superman?

    • Heart of Steel,

      I’d love to provide a longer and more in-depth answer to address more of the points, but let us just focus on your last question on the front of Movies, Comics, and IP.

      First, be skeptical of unverified rumors. Unfortunately, in the internet age, even well-meaning people have trouble distinguishing fact-from-fiction. It pays to try and find the original source of the rumor, look for attribution or verification, and weigh it accordingly. TED-Ed just published a great video on how misinformation propagates through the modern internet press with more lax ethical requirements: “How False News Can Spread

      You’ll probably encounter another rumor today sourced from a certain site alleging a desire to cut Superman’s scenes in BvS… note that this is the ONLY site alleging this and the very same site put on blast by a casting director for claiming casting was already completed (when it had yet to begun!). In court we deal with hearsay, suggestions, and outright lies all the time… it’s critical we build our cases on more substantive evidence so skepticism is a professional requirement. Don’t get sucked into rumors.

      Second, consider what we empirically know about Warner Brothers cinematic Superman productions beyond what made it to screen:

      • Superman V
      • Superman Reborn
      • Superman Lives
      • Superman v. Batman
      • Superman Flyby
      • Justice League Mortal
      • Superman Returns 2
      • Superman 2008 Production
      • Man of Steel 2

      I don’t recall the exact number off the top of my head, but Kevin Smith says it in one of the interviews for TDOSLWH that he was paid something like $200,000 to write Superman Lives. And I assure you that after Kevin’s college tour sharing a lot of the inner workings, the NDAs and contracts have tightened up on talking since. These are the productions that we have an inkling about, say nothing of unused treatments, outlines, and scripts. The history that you’re looking at is a long line of empirical evidence that the WB has and continues to invest into seeing Superman on screen and they’ve become careful guardians and gatekeepers of what actually gets released.

      They’ve paid talents like J.J. Abrams, George Miller, Bryan Singer, Joss Whedon, etc. to work on and develop their properties. If you want to know what the WB is going to do tomorrow, a good place to start is look at yesterday. Production on the next Superman film is always on-going. Superman’s value as an IP makes it absurd to think otherwise. Yet, value is not a given. If you don’t carefully steward your IP, your efforts can actively devalue the IP, as both Marvel and Fox have done to The Fantastic Four. So the WB is careful to manage Superman, look for windows of exploitation which maintain or improve the IP rather than churning out unwanted films.

      On the comic book front, Superman is second only to Batman on the front of number of family titles. DC has routinely assigned critically acclaimed talent to the books and people with proven track records. There is no magic formula to art, success, or sales with something as subjective as comics, but DC has made a concerted effort to stack the deck with award-winning talent, big names, and stories that promise more than the status quo. That’s more than can be said about the majority of titles and characters and it proves a commitment to the IP.

      Finally, in terms of Superman IP activation, consider in Batman v. Superman alone how many trademarks and copyrights from the Superman lore are being refreshed… Lois Lane, Martha Kent, Metropolis, Smallville, Lex Luthor, Mercy Graves, Kryptonite, Perry White, The Daily Planet, General Zod, and allegedly Doomsday… just to name a few. The Supergirl TV show is positively EXPLODING with Superman IP! James Olsen, Cat Grant, Lucy and General Sam Lane, Winslow Schott, Hank Hensahw, Alura, the Danvers, and on and on.

      I defy anyone to point out another DC character with that much activation across the board besides Batman. Actions and investments speak louder than rumors and fear mongering.

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