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The Science of Superheroes [Hardcover]

Lois H. Gresh
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 2002 0471024600 978-0471024606 1
The truth about superpowers . . . science fact or science fiction?

"An entertaining and informative guide to comic book wonders bound to come."
—Julius Schwartz, Editor Emeritus, DC Comics

Superman, Batman, The X-Men, Flash, Spider Man . . . they protect us from evildoers, defend truth and justice, and, occasionally, save our planet from certain doom. Yet, how much do we understand about their powers?

In this engaging yet serious work, Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg attempt to answer that question once and for all. From X-ray vision to psychokinesis, invisibility to lightspeed locomotion, they take a hard, scientific look at the powers possessed by all of our most revered superheroes, and a few of the lesser ones, in an attempt to sort fact from fantasy. In the process, they unearth some shocking truths that will unsettle, alarm, and even terrify all but the most fiendish of supervillains.

Lois Gresh (Rochester, NY) has written eight novels and nonfiction books as well as dozens of short stories and has been nominated for national fiction awards six times.
Robert Weinberg (Oak Forest, IL) is a multiple award-winning author of novels, nonfiction books, short stories and comics.

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* "The best part of this book is not the science, which is fine but somewhat perfunctory, but the material on the various superheroes." (Sci-Fi, December 2002)

"...Gresh and Weinberg's wonderful little book is both a potted history of superhero comics, and a pop science manual for the extremely lazy..." ( Education and Research Opportunities, 28 October 2002)

"?children who enjoyed the Spider-Man and X-men movies will delight in The Science of Superheroes.... Perfect for turning a comic-book obsession into an enthusiasm for the laboratory..."(The Times, 7 December 2002)

"...This is definitely a fun book..." (The Alchemist, 9 January 2003)

"...All in all I can thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in science and at least a nostalgic fondness for comics..." (Chemistry In Britain, December 2002)

"...The Science of Superheroes could be a useful tool for encouraging comic fans to delve into science..." (Physics World, February 2003)


"What seemed impossible just sixty years ago during the Golden Age of Comics, now appears increasingly plausible. The Science of Superheroes serves as an entertaining and informative guide to comic book wonders bound to come." —Julius Schwartz,Editor Emeritus, DC Comics

"We comics fans have known it for years, of course: somewhere, in some nether dimension or on some alternate world, there is an Earth on which super-heroes are real, living, breathing beings... and now Lois Gresh and Bob Weinberg have shown us how that's possible. Mutants... aliens... scientific geniuses with a penchant for wearing costumes and masks... or just plain Joes who've trained their bodies within an inch of their lives... all are probed, dissected, examined in loving details. To paraphrase an old DC Comics feature: Science says you're wrong if you believe that The Science of Superheroes isn't more fun than a barrel of genetically-altered winged monkeys." —Roy Thomas, writer and editor of X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, Justice League of America, Legion of Superheroes, Star Wars, and many other comic book classics.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The success of Superman in Action Comics #1 propelled comic books from minor amusements to a mainstay of American entertainment. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A very disappointing treatment.... July 15 2005
Less than half the book discuss the science behind the superheroes they talk about. Rather they go into lengthy history lessons about the origins of the characters when two sentences saying these are this person's powers, this is how they got them, would be enough. Then you could go into an indepth treatment saying whether or not the powers have at least some grounding in reality then compare them with some current technology that may be close to duplicating some of these powers.
They talk about the Fantastic Four only in the contect of how they got their powers, say they are too silly to even discuss, and move on to re-write the Hulk's origin in a more realistic way. Why not talk about invisibility? What are the links with current technology? There was a guy on Guiness book of world records that can stretch his skin A LOT so why not mention something like that and try to make a link about how you could control it. For example, recent studies with Octopi have shown that they actually walk on the sea floor using two of their tentacles. They fill these with water making them more rigid and thats how they can support some of their weight without the need for a skelatal structure.
I thought the X-men chapter would be good, but instead I got a lecture on Creationism and Evolution. I expected examining Superman's powers in depth and all I got was 10 pages of discussing whether aliens could exist. Not to mention the fact that having Krypton's gravity stronger DOES NOT explain super-strength. He was not born on Krypton, therefore never experienced higher gravity. Being able to withstand a higher gravitational field would NOT be a genetic trait either. Even if he was used to the higher gravitational field, you would eventually become used to the lower one and the super abilities would go away.
Not a very good book in my opinion and the sequal "The Science of Super Villains" looks equally as bad.
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By Lawrance M. Bernabo HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
In "The Science of Superheroes" authors Lois H. Gresh and Robert Weinberg put together a full out assault on the willing suspension of disbelief that allows us to enjoy comic book superheroes from Superman to the X-Men. You probably knew in the back of your mind that the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, and Aquaman could never exist in the real world. Well you were right. But Gresh and Weinberg are here to explain to you in terms of science, which means that when it comes to proving that Henry Pym turning into Goliath would be a bad thing or that the Flash could not possibly run that fast, they actually do the math (at which point I nod my head and move on, because if you think I am going to double-check their calculations you are sadly mistaken).
After a preface that looks at how superhero comic books came about, an introduction by Dean Koontz entitled "Men of Steel, Feathers of Fury," Gresh and Weinberg devote chapters to the cream of the superhero crop. First up, of course, is Superman, which spends a lot of time examining the math on alien visitors before disproving the idea that the difference in the gravity on Krypton and Earth accounts for Superman's powers (I wonder what they make of the current living solar battery idea). Chapters are then devoted to the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, Batman, Aquaman and Sub-Mariner, Spider-Man, the Green Lanterns, Ant Man and the Atom, the Flash, the X-Men, science fiction superheroes, and Donald Duck. The last chapter is actually an encomium to Carl Barks, who used science and technology during the golden age of Disney comics.
I picked up this book because I teach Spider-Man in my Popular Culture class and so that chapter alone justified the price of the book for me.
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I had very high hopes for this book, sadly I was very disappointed.
The only reason I finished the book was to give it as thorough and un-biased review as possible. The first couple of chapters were quite enjoyable, but the rest of the book just kept me wishing that it was going to get better.
What bothered me the most about this book was the frequent use of the word "impossible". The closed minded approach to the science they addressed is reminiscent of somebody saying the world is flat, that the earth is the center of the universe, that submarines were works of only inventive writers or that the sound barrier can not be broken. The book states that traveling past the speed of light is impossible (the chapter about the Flash), but in a later chapter it goes on to say that time travel is possible. Combine this with the book contradicting itself in the same chapter (the chapter about Spider-Man) and you end up wanting to throttle the authors for their inconsistency.
Then there is the completely irrelevant discussion of creationism in the chapter that was supposed to be about the X-men and evolution. The discussion took up most of the chapter and had nothing to do with mutation.
It is obvious by the end of the book that the authors have done little to zero research on any comic book written since the 80's. Their belief seems to be that Donald Duck was the best comic book ever and that there are no strong super heroines.
Do not waste your time or hard earned money on this book. It has a few (very few) shinning moments of good writing. But they do not offset the obvious dislike of comic books and those who work in the comic book industry.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Okay, Dust Off Your Ninth-Grade Science Textbooks�
Perhaps movie director Kevin Smith said it best when he commented that it was a touch of the impossible that makes superheroes so appealing: "Nobody's built like superheroes are in... Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Info on Guys Who Wear Underwear Over Their Pants
This is an excellent book for those who are not obsessed with superheros but find things like their origins of some interest. Read more
Published on Sept. 10 2003 by James N Simpson
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining for comic book lovers
I found this book entertaining and a quick, easy read. Gresh & Weinberg clearly & simply explain what could be complex scientific concepts about most of my favorite... Read more
Published on July 3 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars "Science" Kills the Superheroes
...I hoped a lot, too, but didn't get what I had hoped for.
As you can imagine, this book's chosen task is to examine superheroic powers from the standpoint of present-day... Read more
Published on June 1 2003 by Mark Alfred
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad science to debunk comics
Once again I was grossly disappointed to find bad biology in fiction. IT ISN'T THAT HARD TO DO YOUR RESEARCH! Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2003 by Aaron Spriggs
2.0 out of 5 stars Mildly Entertaining but not great
Doesn't leave a lot of room for imagination. Of course we know a lot of these characters are impossible, that's what's fun. Read more
Published on Dec 27 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay - but fairly light on actual science.
This was a fun read - but it had several problems. When the man (Dean Koontz in this case) writing the introduction says he doesn't read comics, I began to get worried. Read more
Published on Dec 13 2002 by Ivan A. Wolfe
3.0 out of 5 stars Impossible Superheroes...Really?
I enjoyed how this book examined the different superheroes from a scientific perspective and broke down the components of their particular powers, but, c'mon, all of them are... Read more
Published on Dec 11 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars THE "GRESH" who stole christmas
Almost every chapter tells you why the superhero is impossible. Gresh has no imagination in trying to figure out how future science may explain a superhero. Read more
Published on Dec 1 2002 by Plastic Larry
4.0 out of 5 stars A readable popular science book with an interesting hook
Superhero stories are used to introduce discussions of various scientific questions -- Superman for the possibility of alien life, the Hulk for gamma rays, Batman for devices like... Read more
Published on Oct. 18 2002 by J. Draper Carlson
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