Watchmen Science

Dr. James Kakalios, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota, was asked to consult on the Watchmen film by Warner Brothers. Kakalios was a good choice, since he had already been teaching a course named "Everything I know about physics, I learned from comic books."

In the following video, Kakalios looks at some of the super powers in Watchmen, and uses it to sneak a lot of interesting material about real science into the discussion.


(Science of Wachmen video)

Teleportation, for example, is currently impossible on a macroscopic scale, but researchers are making progress. It's been possible to teleport the quantum states of photons from one side of a lab to another for some time, but earlier this year, researchers succeeded in teleporting information about the state of an ytterbium ion. Physicist Michio Kaku, of the City University of New York, now says macro teleportation may be only a "class I impossibility" - something that requires sophisticated engineering, rather than rewriting the laws of physics.

Dr Manhattan can also see into the past and future, making him somewhat indifferent about the fate of lesser mortals, which he believes to be predetermined. (He's in some ways a caricature: the aloof scientist for whom the pursuit of pure knowledge trumps all human considerations.) Given how poorly we understand time, it'd be a mistake to write this off as pure fantasy - it sounds a little like the world envisaged by independent physicist Julian Barbour, in which time really is just an illusion.
( Quantum superheroes: The science of Watchmen )


(Laurie Jupiter and Dr. Manhattan)

But he's not too concerned about the central aspects of Watchmen that can't fully be reconciled with real science, such as Dr. Manhattan's ability to be in two places simultaneously. In superhero movies, after all, he says, "You're asking the audience to buy something that's intrinsically ridiculous."

Still, he thinks it's a good chance to tap into a new market of minds. "The audience for this material…, [they] are also, in general, fans of real science," he says. At the end of the day, a nerd is a nerd, Kakalios admits comfortably, because he is also a comic book aficionado: "Geeks are people who get turned on by ideas" whether that's about spider powers or quantum mechanics.
(How Scientifically Accurate Is Watchmen? )

Read more at the links shown above; thanks to Moira for the tip on this cool video.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/27/2009)

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