Tag Archives: neutrino

Superhero Science: Tomorrow’s caped crusaders

6 Jun

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.org

Everyone loves a good Hollywood ending. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing a masked hero finally dispatch an evil villain. But aren’t flying men with super-strength a bit passé? Maybe it’s time for some new, cutting-edge superheroes…

Introducing… Corner Woman, Neutrino-man and Camo-Kid (credit: Dave Gray for Guru magazine)

Science and superheroes have a surprisingly intimate history. Pick any of the well-known protagonists from the Marvel or DC comic books and the chances are you’ll be able to trace their history back to science.

Spider-Man, for instance, came into existence when geeky high school student Peter Parker was bitten by a (radioactive) spider during a science demonstration. Some superheroes were even fully-fledged scientists before freak accidents gave them their powers – Bruce Banner (the Incredible Hulk) and Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic from the Fantastic Four) are two examples.

The X-Men, whose superpowers developed from mutations, were undoubtedly inspired by the theory of evolution. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that anyone in the real world is going to start growing claws out of their hands, but mutations are known to play an important role in natural selection, in which a random mutation, if beneficial, can eventually become a new characteristic of a species.

Even Superman – “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” – is not quite as unscientific as you might think. In 2007, Dr Chris Stanley at London’s Natural History Museum discovered a mineral with the chemical formula ‘sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide’. He soon realised that this composition was remarkably similar to the description of a rock containing Kryptonite in the 2006 film Superman Returns. The real mineral, however, is white, powdery and harmless – quite unlike the green, radioactive material that blights Superman throughout his adventures.

Superman plays with himself (credit: JC Hancock)

Clearly, then, there’s a fair amount of science in the world of superheroes. But what type of superhero, I wondered, could be born from today’s cutting-edge scientific research? I decided to browse through some of the recent science news stories and create three science-inspired superheroes of my own. This trio probably won’t be gracing a Marvel comic or Hollywood blockbuster anytime soon, but I hope you’ll take them into your heart anyway.

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Relatively Funny

25 Sep

So neutrinos have suddenly become the enfants terribles of particle physics, with scientists in Italy reporting that these tiny particles can travel faster than the speed of light.

xkcd's take on the neutrino discovery

There’s been a lot of talk on the blogosphere about this discovery, its potential implications for Einstein’s theory of relativity, and whether or not the results will stand up to the scrutiny of the particle physics community. But alongside the head scratching, cautious excitement, and inevitable talk of time travel, there have also been gazillions of neutrino jokes whizzing around. Here are some of the picks (caution: you may laugh before you read these).

“We don’t allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here,” said the bartender. A neutrino walks into a bar.

Hipsters liked neutrinos before they arrived.

Want to hear a joke about neutrinos? It’d probably go straight through you. 

“Knock, Knock”
“Neutrino!”
“Who’s there?”

(or…Knock, Knock. Who’s th – neutrino! – ere?)

To get to the other side. Why did the neutrino cross the road?

___________________________

A limerick by Telescoper.

Do neutrinos go faster than light?
Some physicists think that they might.
In the cold light of day,
I am sorry to say,
The story is probably shite.

___________________________

And a relativity-themed one by James Ph. Kotsybar.

A young lady known simply as Bright,
who could travel at speeds fast as light,
said: “While I’m never late,
I’m concerned that my weight
goes to infinite mass, though I’m slight.”

___________________________

A musical ode to the neutrino by Andrew Pontzen, courtesy of Geek Pop.

___________________________

Proof that a poodle-haired Swedish guitarist actually foresaw this discovery way back in 1988: “Faster Than the Speed of Light“.

___________________________

Anyway, that’s enough geeky humour for now…I think I may spontaneously combust.

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