science Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

Batman and Gotham rogues teach about bats in TED Ed video


To help dispel the belief “that bats are dangerous villains,” Amy Wray and the TED Ed team turned to an expert on bats — if not on the science, then at least on the symbolism: Batman.

In this breezy and informative animated video, the Dark Knight, Alfred Pennyworth, Jim Gordon and a handful of Gotham’s rogues — Poison Ivy, The Penguin, Two-Face and The Joker — are used to help educate about the benefits of bats to pest control, pollination and even recovering stroke victims.

“Batman might want to keep his identity secret,” the video concludes, “but a great way to help real bats is by continuing to learn about them and spreading the truth that they are real heroes — even if their good deeds are often unseen.”

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Superman action figure soars to edge of space, returns to Earth


There’s something wonderfully and refreshingly uplifting about this video, which chronicles DesignSpark‘s mission for Mattel Toys Italy to launch a Superman action figure to an altitude of 29,000 meters — “to the edge of space” — and bring it parachuting back to Earth. It’s pretty amazing.

DesignSpark has provided more details at Instructables, including downloadable instructions so you can send your own action figure into the atmosphere.

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Spider-Man gloves allow people to climb walls

elliot hawkes

Superhuman speed and strength still may be out of reach, but scientists have devised a way to scale buildings like Spider-Man.

Popular Mechanics reports that researchers have developed gecko-inspired adhesives gloves that can lift a 200-pound person up walls. Well, certain walls.

“To work, the surface you’re climbing needs to be relatively smooth; like glass, varnished wood, polished stone, or metal,” says Elliot Hawkes, the Stanford mechanical engineer who led the research team, “but you can attach and detach with very little effort, and to make [the gloves] stick all you have to do is hang your weight.”

You can see Hawkes demonstrate the gloves in the video below.

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The Flash may be hurting more people than he saves


The CW’s new drama The Flash has been widely praised for its rejection of doom and gloom in favor of a cheerier depiction of superheroes. However, a group of physics students is questioning whether Barry Allen is a hero at all.

In a brief paper titled “The Flash: Hero or Villain?,” four students from the University of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy scrutinize a scene from the pilot episode in which the Scarlet Speedster races to save a bicyclist from being struck by a taxi. While in the television series the man was left confused but otherwise unharmed, in reality his encounter with the Fastest Man Alive would leave him in worse shape than if he’d been struck by the car.

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, it’s Small Press Expo



Conventions | With the 20th Small Press Expo kicking off Saturday in Bethesda, Maryland, The Washington Post’s Lori McCue singles out three of the show’s biggest draws: appearances by Jules Feiffer, Lynda Barry and Bob Mankoff. Meanwhile, Michael Cavna spotlights Fear, My Dear, the new release from convention guest Dean Haspiel. [The Washington Post]

Creators | As he prepared to head out to Small Press Expo, Farel Dalrymple paused for an audio interview about his newest book, The Wrenchies, which will debut at the show. [Comics Grinder]

Creators | Writer Tom Taylor teases what we can expect in his new Superior Iron Man series. [Previews World]

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Abrams to publish ‘Climate Changed’ by Philippe Squarzoni


Science and comics have proved a popular combination lately, as more and more cartoonists here and abroad attempt to tackle real-life topics that don’t involve their love lives (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The latest entry in this category will come in April when Abrams releases Climate Changed: A Personal Journey through the Science by French author Philippe Squarzoni.

The book, which will be 480 pages and cost $24.95, will examine what exactly global warming and its effects are while asking whether we have the ability to stave off the dire predictions that some make. Nonfiction is no stranger to Squarzoni, who has previously completed books about Central American politics and author Richard Brautigan, and this promises to be a highly detailed, heavily researched book.

After the jump you can read Abrams’ official press release:

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‘xkcd’ creator Randall Munroe gets asteroid named after him

4942_munroeRandall Munroe, creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, has joined a very exclusive group: comics writers and artists who’ve had asteroids named in their honor.

According to the cartoonist, the International Astronomical Union, which assigns designations to celestial bodies, was accepting name suggestions for small solar system objects, and xkcd readers Lewis Hulbert and Jordan Zhu submitted Munroe’s name for asteroid (4942) 1987 DU6. The recommendation was accepted, and the asteroid is now officially designated 4942 Munroe.

“The first thing I did was try to figure out whether 4942 Munroe was big enough to pose a threat to Earth,” the cartoonist writes. “I was excited to learn that, based on its albedo (brightness), it’s probably about 6-10 kilometers in diameter. That’s comparable in size to the one that killed the dinosaurs — definitely big enough to cause a mass extinction! Unfortunately Fortunately, it’s in a fairly stable circular orbit between Mars and Jupiter, so it’s unlikely to hit the Earth any time soon.”

Munroe is now one of a relative handful of comics creators who have asteroids named after them: J. Michael Straczynski (although it was in recognition of works in other media, like Babylon 5), Carl Barks and, just this summer, The Incal writer Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Asteroid named after ‘The Incal’ writer Alejandro Jodorowsky

Alejandro Jodorowsky

The Incal writer Alejandro Jodorowsky has received an honor few other comics creators can claim: He’s had an asteroid named after him.

Agence France-Presse reports the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planets Center designated asteroid 261690 as Jodorowsky at the request of French astronomer Jean-Claude Merlin, who discovered the three-mile-wide object more than seven years ago. The name was approved July 24 by the Committee on Small Body Nomenclature following several years of observation of the asteroid.

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What would happen if Superman punched you? (Hint: It’d be bad)


As awesome as it was when Neil deGrasse Tyson pinpointed the location of Krypton and calculated the weight of Thor’s hammer (even if he was wrong), the superstar astrophysicist may have just been out-nerded by the Vsauce YouTube Channel: In the latest video, host Jake Roper breaks down what would happen if Superman were to punch you. The result would be … probably worse than you might’ve thought.

“Superman wouldn’t just knock the wind out of you — oh, no,” Roper explains. “He would knock the atoms out of you. His fist has pretty much become a particle beam. […] You would be liquidated at the atomic level.” However, the destruction wouldn’t end with your measly atoms. Find out more in the video below.

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Take that, Doc Ock: Spider-Man’s web could stop a subway train


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.

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Comics A.M. | Manga creators team up to help devastated region


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]

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Never take electrical advice from super villains

Black Hand

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.

Were radioactive webs made by radioactive spiders?

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.

Darryl Cunningham smashes bunkum in Science Tales

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.

The X-Men family tree: (virtually) inbreeding-free since 1963!

Joe Stone's X-Men Family Tree

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 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.”

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