Superman. The ultimate superhero. Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. And able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The Man of Steel has enthralled audiences for decades with his incredible powers of flight, super strength, x- ray vision and super speed. But just how much science fact is there behind these superpowers?
On Thursday, June 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, National Geographic Channel's (NGC) The Science of Superman puts the superpowers to the test, revealing what's plausible based on the earth-bound laws of physics, biology and astronomy, and what's pure science fiction. The Science of Superman blends expert scientific analysis with original, behind-the-scenes insight from Superman Returns director Bryan Singer, the new Superman, Brandon Routh, Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, and comic book writer Mark Waid, among others.
For more than 60 years, Superman has fascinated audiences with his enviable powers and has come to symbolize the ultimate good guy -- battling for truth, justice and the American way. But this superhero has also had the amazing capacity to expose millions to important scientific principles. Viewers will learn how gravity, x-rays, ballistics and radiation might apply to a real-life Superman. The Science of Superman also explains how an unstable planet composed of dense radioactive elements, such as Superman's home planet of Krypton, could actually explode, and how its greater gravitational pull could affect Superman's strength and speed on earth. The show even explains real-world theories on his powers of flight, from magnetic propulsion to an ability to generate gravitons within his body.
Singer is charged with applying the earth-bound laws of physics to Superman on the big screen. He discusses the lengths taken in his highly anticipated feature film to create realistic flying scenes by analyzing the body's suspension, strength and resistance in a swimming pool. Singer also details Superman's intense struggle in the movie against gravity and physics. For instance, when Superman tries to save a jet by holding onto its wing, Singer makes it as scientifically plausible as it is spectacular.
Experts such as Michael Dennin, physics professor at UC Irvine, Todd Barber, propulsion engineer at the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Frank Frisch, biological sciences professor at Chapman University and science journalist Mark Wolverton discuss the physiology Superman needs to move at super speeds, the parallels between the Man of Steel and an insect's exoskeleton, and Superman's potential capacity to convert sunlight to energy.
Finally, the program reveals how Superman's amazing powers are being reborn in laboratories around the world; from x-ray vision at airport security checks, to bulletproof vests five times stronger than steel, to the development of "super-mice" at the University of Pennsylvania. As Barber says in the special: "Superman and his powers have inspired science and technology ... good science fiction always drives good science fact."