As part of my undergraduate course at Leicester there was a module called Journal of Special Topics. It involved everyone in the year working in groups of 3-4 and writing weekly ‘science’ reports that other groups would peer review and give feedback on. If a paper was good enough I would be submitted to the archive, if not it would have to be redone. One of the paper I submitted for my group was a look at the potential scientific explanations for the some of the powers displayed by Superman. I thought I’d put it up here in case anyone else wanted to give it a read.
Superman is a fictional DC superhero created in 1938. He is the last survivor of the alien planet of Krypton, having been sent to Earth as a child by his parents moments before their planet exploded . On Earth he realised that radiation from our sun interacted with his physiology in such a way that he obtained superhuman powers; one of which, heat vision, will be the subject of discussion in this paper.
We will model his heat vision as a type of carbon dioxide laser. A CO2 laser works by using the vibration and rotations of a CO2 molecule to produce the laser light in the 10.6μm range . This infrared beam is mainly used in industry for cutting, welding and engraving. Superman uses his heat vision for similar purposes and when you combine this with the fact that that this type of laser uses molecules readily found in the body it seems to be good choice for modeling his heat vision. Although in the comics and films Superman’s heat vision is primarily displayed as bright red beams this is probably more for visual effect. Add to this the fact that he is able to produce invisible beams it does not seem unreasonable to model his vision this way.
As stated, Superman’s main source of energy is through the absorption of solar radiation, a process which will be assumed to work in a similar manner to photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a chemical process in plants that uses the energy from sunlight to convert CO2 into sugar and we can imagine Read the rest of this entry »