Though superheroes are not real, the science behind their powers may be.
James Kakalios, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota, has become a Hollywood consultant on the science of superheros. Most recently he worked on the highly anticipated “The Amazing Spiderman,” released in theaters tomorrow.
Moviegoers will note Kakalios’ unique “Decay Rate Algorithm” in the film, developed out of a real equation that involves increasing likelihood of death with age. He also assisted with Spiderman’s characteristic webbing and wall crawling, stating that he based this power off of Gecko lizards and their “version of static cling.”
As Kakalios explained to NPR’s Ira Flatow, he was called in to substantiate the science behind the film by the National Academy Of Sciences' Science and Entertainment Exchange Program. Kakalois said that, though the science in these films will never be perfect, the idea is that the films will get the science correct within their specific context.
“...Once you accept spider powers or people transforming into giant lizards, the other stuff that happened should be consistent, should be right, because it helps keep the audience in the story,” he said. “Anytime when they're questioning what they're seeing on-screen, even little things like, you know, a laboratory doesn't look like a real laboratory, is a moment when they're not paying attention to the story.”
Kakalios gained recognition in this niche-field after the publication of his “The Physics Of Superheros” (Gotham Books, 2005).
Warner Bros. hired Kakalios two years later as a science consultant for their film “Watchmen.” After the experience, he produced a short YouTube video in 2009 titled “Science of Watchmen” that has garnered over 1.6 million views since its release.
"At the end of the day, I'm not looking for a movie to be 100 percent scientifically accurate,” Kakalios writes on his website. “But if they can do something right, it's like catching a little inside joke… And who knows? Maybe the audience will learn a little something about science."
Kakalios is the Taylor Distinguished Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy and teaches a popular Freshman Seminar titled “Everything I know About Physics I Learned By Reading Comic Books.”
With the aid of late puppeteer Frank W. Ballard, the University of Connecticut has become a proud leader in the art of puppeteering, offering a B.F.A., M.A. and M.F.A. The <a href="http://www.drama.uconn.edu/Puppetry/Puppet_home.htm" target="_hplink">school reports</a> that since the program's beginning in 1964, there have been nearly 500 student puppet productions. In an <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/arts/14ballard.html" target="_hplink"><em>New York Times</em></a> article published after Ballard's death, the program was lauded as "a Mecca for puppeteers in training."
Schools such as <a href="http://www.reg.msu.edu/academicprograms/ProgramDetail.asp?Program=0405" target="_hplink">Michigan State University</a> provides this program in order to maximize a student's career in the manufactured products industries. Required classes include a range of serious science and math classes, along with courses titled "Packaging with Glass and Metal" and "Packaging with Paper and Paperboard."
Viticulture & Enology: Grape Growing and Winemaking
UC Davis and Cornell University take advantage of their ripe location in providing this major. As <a href="http://grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/cals/grapesandwine/undergraduate/index.cfm" target="_hplink">Cornell's website </a>explains, "Due to rapid growth in the region's wine industry, there simply aren't enough people qualified to manage vineyards and run wineries," while <a href="http://wineserver.ucdavis.edu/" target="_hplink">UC Davis</a> states that the University of California has had this sort of program for over 100 years.
Acknowledging the significance of comic books in modern society, <a href="http://mcad.edu/academic-programs/comic-art" target="_hplink">Minneapolis College of Art and Design </a>offers a B.F.A in Comic Art. Students in the program study "line, color, and composition, as well as character development, storyboarding, and plot." Future careers include: Cartoonist, Comic Editor, Comic Illustrator, Comic Writer, Penciler, Colorist, Letterer, Inker
Bowling Industry Management and Technology
At Vincennes University in Indiana, the laboratory is substituted for a bowling center. According to the school's <a href="http://www.vinu.edu/content/bowling-industry-management-and-technology" target="_hplink">website</a>, the major is intended to prepare students for "management of a bowling center, sales and marketing, pro shop operations, and pinsetter mechanics."
<a href="http://www.cmu.edu/about/history/index.shtml" target="_hplink">Andrew Carnegie</a> did not neglect to honor his Scottish roots when he established Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA in 1900. Since the early 1990s, the school has offered a degree in bagpipes. In an interview with the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1990/07/15/style/campus-life-carnegie-mellon-a-different-beat-when-bagpiping-becomes-a-major.html" target="_hplink"><em>New York Times</em></a> in 1990, Marilyn Taft Thomas, head of Carnegie Mellon's music department stated, "The entire tradition of campus has been to have celebratory bagpiping. It just makes sense for us to acknowledge bagpipes as a legitimate musical instrument."
Bakery Science and Management
In this major, available at <a href="http://www.ag.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=876" target="_hplink">Kansas State University</a>, students not only take classes in baking and cereal science, milling, flour and dough testing, but also in math, science, and microbiology. The program falls under the larger College of Agriculture, and is listed among other unique majors offered within the College, such as <a href="http://www.ag.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=995" target="_hplink">Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management</a> or <a href="http://www.ag.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=882" target="_hplink">Park Management and Conservation</a>.
Video Game Design
Video game fanatics can live out their dream at certain colleges by majoring in video game design. The major can be found at a plethora of different universities, with schools as prestigious as such<a href="http://cinema.usc.edu/degrees/minor/videogame.cfm" target="_hplink"> University of Southern California </a>providing a minor in Video Game Design & Management.