It turns out that scene in 2004′s Spider-Man 2 in which Peter Parker used his webbing to stop a subway train from hurtling off the tracks and into the river may have been the least-outlandish thing about the movie.
Playing MythBusters, physics students from the University of Leicester put the sequence to the test and discovered that, yes, some spider silk is strong enough to stop a runaway train. Their findings were published in the new issue of the Journal of Physics Special Topics, which is undoubtedly on pull lists everywhere.
Manga | Eight manga creators, including Rumiko Takahashi (InuYasha, Maison Ikkoku), will create new comics featuring the characters they are known for and donate the royalties to the effort to rebuild the Tohoku region of Japan, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The fund-raiser is being spearheaded by Gallery Fake creator Fujihiko Hosono. [The Japan Times]
Awards | While we were all busy at New York Comic Con, the Frankfurt Book Fair was going on in Germany, and Torsten Adair rounds up the comics awards that were given at the fair to German and international creators. [The Beat]
Conventions | Christopher Spata talks to some of the attendees at this past weekend’s Tampa Bay Comic Con, including the parents of a 1-year-old who was in costume—and already has a room full of superhero items. [Tampa Bay Online]
Robot 6 favorite Kerry Callen has a new autobiographical strip up on his blog that shows what happens when you take advice from super villains–your car might catch on fire. Despite being a genius inventor, apparently Black Hand isn’t the best source of information for how to replace a fuse in your 1978 Celica, and that was before he became the physical embodiment of death.
So once again, kids: always listen to your parents, a professional or Mr. Fantastic, not a super villain, for electrical advice.
Could the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker have a real-life cousin in a nuclear plant? Researchers are puzzling over a white, “cobweb-like” substance that was found on spent uranium rods at the Savannah River National Laboratory in South Carolina. The British tabloids are having a field day, with headlines like ‘Mutant’ spider fears at nuclear waste lab (at The Sun) and a rash of Spider-Man refereces. ABC News, on the other hand, talked to a real scientist:
“We observed it, it was unusual, it appears to be biological in nature but we don’t know that for sure,” said Will Callicott, the lab’s manager of executive communications. “It doesn’t seem to be doing any harm.”
The webs were found in the pools of water in which the spent fuel rods were submerged, but no one seems to have found an actual radioactive spider yet.
ABC News also interviewed Robert Baker of Texas Tech, who pointed out that wildlife flourished in the area around Russia’s Chernobyl nuclear plant after the accident there. The reason: The humans left, so the wildlife had the area to themselves. “They’re going to live a lot longer lives, because humans are worse for them than the radiation was,” Baker said.
Over at The Sun, their Spidey sense is tingling:
Experts say that any creature inside in the pools of water – which are intended to protect workers – would have been exposed to the nuclear fuel.
This raises the prospect of a creature having morphed into a new species of ‘extremophile’ after being exposed to uranium.
I think we already knew this, but it’s good news anyway: The UK publisher Myriad Editions sent out a press release announcing that they will publish Darryl Cunningham’s Science Tales in April.
If you’re a regular Robot 6 reader, you will probably already have seen some of Cunningham’s work, as we have linked to it several times; his comics are little mini-documentaries that take on controversial topics and debunk bad science. He has posted a number of the chapters of Science Tales on his blog and in a recent post he compared their popularity. His chapters on Evolution and the Moon Hoax are literally off the charts with over 250,000 hits each, while his autism/vaccine story, The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, which made the rounds of the comics blogosphere, got about 40,000 hits. Cunningham observes in the post that many of the visits come from folks who are interested in the topic covered, rather than comics per se:
It shows, I think, that the comic strip medium has a huge audience waiting out there beyond the tiny bubble of fandom. Readers coming to my blog to read these chapters were not the usual comic book crowd. They were drawn to to read these comics because of the subject, not because of the medium. Many noters commented that they didn’t usually read comics at all.
You can see this in the comments to each comic, which generally include a lively, but civil, debate about the topic at hand. (The readers also do Cunningham’s editing for him, pointing out typos and other small errors.) The posted chapters serve as the beta version of the book, but for fans of Cunningham’s work (his Psychiatric Tales is already available in the U.S.), the print edition will be well worth seeking out.
I’ve always been a lost cause when it comes to math and science, so usually my eyes glaze over when there’s any talk of “formula” or “coefficient.” But I perked up when at Wired.com scientist and author Samuel Arbesman took on the question of inbreeding in Marvel’s X-Men universe. (It was the X-Men part, not the inbreeding, that piqued my interest, thankyouverymuch.)
Using as a guide Joe Stone’s X-Men Family Tree, with its lines designating clones, offspring nemeses and so on, Arbesman has determined that — surprise, surprise! — “there is no inbreeding whatsoever among the X-Men.” He does, however, raise an eyebrow at Ultimate Quicksilver and Ultimate Scarlet Witch.
“Despite the clones, immortality, and occasional mind control of comic books, the X-Men lack inbreeding,” he writes, “at least according to this chart. If we delve a bit deeper though, it turns out that the twin children of Magneto do have a sexual relationship. While no children have resulted from the union of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, this would have resulted in an astonishingly high inbreeding coefficient of 25 percent, similar to a Pharaoh.”
Conventions | Wizard’s executive chairman Mike Mathews tells Heidi MacDonald that after the resignation of former CEO Gareb Shamus, the company wants to be “a Switzerland of entertainment” and mend fences with members of the industry: “Gareb is one of these types of personalities who has taken strong positions over the years with various people in the industry and brands. And that kind of hurt us because of where we are trying to go — we’re trying to be a Switzerland of entertainment and we want to try to try to reach out to brands.” MacDonald notes the company is offering a $100 credit toward Wizard conventions to former Wizard subscribers whose subscriptions abruptly ended when the magazine was shut down. A new CEO is expected to be named early next month. [The Beat]
Conventions | Image Comics announced several more guests for the Image Expo, scheduled for Feb. 24-26 in Oakland, California. The lineup now includes Blair Butler, John Layman, Rob Guillory, Nick Spencer, Joshua Fialkov, Joe Keatinge, Jim McCann and Jim Zubkavich, among many others. [press release]
Organizations | The Associação da Luta Contra o Cancer is running an awareness campaign in Mozambique featuring images drawn by artist Maisa Chaves of Wonder Woman, Catwoman, She-Hulk and Storm checking their breasts for lumps. [Daily Mail]
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, your weekly look into our reading piles. Today we’re joined by special guest Jacquelene Cohen, director of publicity and promotions for Fantagraphics Books.
To see what Jacq and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, read on …
Comics fans, as a whole, despise spoilers, from the death of Captain America and the revelation of Angel as Twilight to the death of the Human Torch and the unmasking of Miles Morales as the new (Ultimate) Spider-Man. As publishers like Marvel and DC Comics turn more frequently to the mainstream press to generate publicity for major plot developments, spoilers naturally become much more common; national newspapers don’t usually hide their exclusives from the eyes of sensitive comics fans.
But after the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments subside, it turns out that spoilers may not be a bad thing. Really! A new study by the University of California, San Diego found that, “contrary to popular wisdom,” they seem to actually enhance the enjoyment of stories.
The study, which will be published in the journal Psychological Science, focused on three types of short stories — ironic-twist, mystery and literary — from such authors as John Updike, Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie. Research subjects were presented with each story in three forms: as it originally appeared, with a spoiler paragraph before the story, and with that same paragraph incorporated into the text.
Okay, maybe not. But someone at the space agency is a comic-book nerd — go figure! — the stunning image of the day on the NASA website is accompanied by the headline “A Green Ring Fit for a Superhero.” It’s a shot from the Spitzer Space Telescope of a glowing emerald nebula “reminiscent of the glowing ring wielded by the superhero Green Lantern.” The description goes on to name check the Guardians of Oa, power rings and the Green Lantern Corps. Visit the NASA website to enjoy the image at full size.
Poring over 34 volumes of Asterix, German scientists were astonished to discover 704 cases of traumatic head or brain injury, a staggering 65 percent of which involved Roman soldiers, making you wonder whether the conquest of Gaul was really worth it.
René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s heroes, Asterix and his sidekick Obelix, delivered more than half the blows, which The Telegraph points out frequently left the victims unconscious or amnesiac, but never, y’know, dead. Surprising … in a children’s comic? Well, the scientists seem to think so.
“The favourable outcome is astonishing,” lead researcher Marcel Kamp is quoted as saying, “since outcome of traumatic brain injury in the ancient world is believed to have been worse than today and also since no diagnostic or therapeutic procedures were performed.”
Hey, maybe the Romans were swigging that druid-brewed magic potion, too.
The study found that although Romans accounted for 450 of the victims, there were plenty of injuries to go around: 120 Gauls, 59 bandits or pirates, 20 Goths, eight Vikings and five Britons.
If, like me, you thought this study sounds vaguely familiar, you’re probably thinking of the 2004 analysis of Tintin, which attributed the boy reporter’s delayed puberty and lack of libido to a growth-hormone deficiency and … repeated blows to the head. Specifically, “50 significant losses of consciousness in 16 of Tintin’s 23 books.”
There’s no word yet as to whether the Romans suffered the same problems.
A newly identified horned dinosaur owes its name to a combination of Greek mythology and Marvel comics.
Michael Ryan, a scientist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, tells The Plain Dealer he wanted something memorable for the pickup truck-sized plant-eater that roamed the plains of Montana 78 million years ago.
To capture the strangeness of the creature, with its sharp beak, curved horns and enormous collar, Ryan settled on Medusaceratops lokii — drawing from the monster of Greek myth and the Norse god mischief. However, Ryan wasn’t inspired by the classical figure, but rather the Jack Kirby-designed Marvel supervillain.
“We had a lot of confusion with this,” Ryan tells the newspaper. “And if you look at the way they draw Loki in the original comic, he has this big helmet with these two giant hooks that come out of the top. So it’s coincidental that it all lines up. I thought it made a great name.”
For those science nerds among us, illustrator Russell Walks has created this cool poster collecting fictional chemical elements from comics, literature, television, film and games, categorized by medium and origin (e.g. “Magically Occurring on Earth”).
A quick glance shows such comic book-based substances as Amazonium (Wonder Woman), Dilustel (Captain Atom), Inertron (Legion of Super-Heroes), Marvelium (Captain Marvel/Shazam), Uru (Thor), Kairoseki (One Piece) and, of course, Kryptonite (Superman).
You can order “The Periodic Table of Imaginary Elements” for $25 through Walks’ website.
Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard may have gotten things right with The Walking Dead: When the zombie apocalypse comes, it will mean the end of civilization.
Hey, I’m just repeating what researchers in Canada have found. In short, unless the undead are dealt with “quickly and aggressively,” we’ll all be doomed — or else forced to rely on our own Rick Grimes to save our sorry butts.
BBC News reports that a study by researchers from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University posed a simple, and amusingly fanboy-ish, question: If there were to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win?
For the answer, scientists used “biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies” — and the classic slow-moving zombie model. But even with the lumbering variety, the answer is pretty grim.
“It’s imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else … we are all in a great deal of trouble,” the scientists conclude.
The Smithsonian has a Webcomic up to tie in with their new exhibit about a skeleton found in southern Maryland titled The Secret in the Cellar:
The Secret in the Cellar, is a Webcomic based on an authentic forensic case of a recently discovered 17th Century body. Using graphics, photos, and online activities, the Webcomic unravels a mystery of historica, and scientific importance. Online sleuths can analyze artifacts and examine the skeleton for the tell-tale forensic clues that bring the deceased to life and establish the cause of death.