Craft & Design Science
“Fiction science” theory of Superman’s powers
Ben Tippet A Unified Theory of Supermans Powers Figure 3.jpg

Back in 2005, I wrote a fictional scientific paper (.pdf) postulating that zombiism is in fact caused by a prion, rather than a virus, as is commonly hypothesized. I also wrote a short essay about the idea of “fiction science” at the time. Now Ben Tippet, at the behest of Dinosaur Comics’ Ryan North, has written a similarly fictional scientific paper (.pdf) presenting “A Unified Theory of Superman’s Powers” from a physicist’s perspective. I’d be interested in hearing of other examples of people co-opting the serious literary forms of science for fictional purposes. If you know of one, please drop me a comment. [via Neatorama]

26 thoughts on ““Fiction science” theory of Superman’s powers

  1. i would also be interested in hearing of other examples of people co-opting the serious literary forms of science for fictional purposes!

    i’ve also written a “paper” about general strategies when entering a city full of zombies, and a “paper” about whether and when a vampire hunter will be able to suppress populations of the undead.

    Silly science is a great way to unwind when your mind is still spinning but you’re too tired to work.

    I’d like to see your prion zombie thing!

      1. hi.
        zombie prions are cool.

        i don’t know if “published” is the word i’d use to describe them. more like “latex’ed up and put on my blog”.

        in any case
        “Important and Relevant Details to Consider
        When Entering a City Full of Zombies ”

        “The effect of a ‘slayer’ on a population of the undead”

        A friend of mine at queen’s sent me a copy of a paper about whether it was worth the effort to try and create a vaccine to the “rage virus” from “28 days/weeks later”.

        I’m surprised that there aren’t more silly papers like these out there, all things considered.

        1. a friend of mine and i were considering starting a journal called “physics review Z” consisting of zombie papers.

  2. Larry Niven, in All The Myriad Ways (and probably reprinted in other books), tackles three science-of-fiction issues:
    # “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”
    # “Exercise in Speculation: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation”
    # “The Theory and Practice of Time Travel”

  3. I saw Zombieland this weekend. They hinted that the source might be prion related and that it’s an aggressive version of mad cow disease.

  4. I wrote a science show based on the idea of looking at the science of superheroes – and how to use that information to defeat the hero.

    So for example, the flash must have a very high specific heat capacity (since he runs super-fast through air without exploding from the friction) – i use panels from the comics to get numbers to work out *exactly* how high (94,079 J/gK, in case you were wondering). So to defeat someone with that high of a SHC, you give them the flu – his body finds it hard to raise it’s temp to combat it. And so on.

    You can watch it online at, it’s called ‘science as a path to world domination’. Annoyingly, that was the very first time I’d performed it, and I’ve since noticed a mistake in the Flash equations. See if you can too! I’ve fixed it in subsequent shows, but I can’t fix the recorded version..booo…

  5. I read that article and the author is just so wrong about freeze-breath. Gas molecules could only change effective mass when they’re in contact with lung tissue, so what’s really happening is just like a refrigerator: compression, adiabatic cooling, and subsequent temperature drop because of the Joule-Thomson effect.

    I mean, duh.

  6. Nice post. I learn something more challenging on different blogs everyday. It will always be stimulating to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their store. I’d prefer to use some with the content on my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing. acompanhantes morenas| putas loiras

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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