Have you ever read a superheroes comic? Watched a superheroes cartoon, or at least watched one of the great Marvel movies? I bet you have done one of these at least once. If you ask you pupils, most of them would go to the cinema to watch these films as soon as they are out and would really enjoy them! What a great opportunity to get some Physics in it.
You might think, what Physics? Superheroes defy Physics and would just reinforce silly misconceptions. And that’s where we need to ask a different question, i.e. what would need to happen in this situation, or with this superhero, to be physically possible?
A good example is X-men 3 (DVD only £3 in Tesco). You can use this very popular film to introduce Momentum. The Juggernaut has a very cool power, i.e. “If he builds any momentum, nothing can stop him”. This sentence is in the maximum security lorry scene, when the Juggernaut gets freed. This power can be used to generate interest in momentum. The Juggernaut had to be confined by being tightly bound with extra strong metal restraints, so you can immediately ask: “What do you think momentum depends on?” Obviously, he cannot be allowed to move, or we would build momentum and become unstoppable. So, momentum depends on the velocity of the Juggernaut. What else then? Well, just look at the guy! He is massive, so momentum also depends on the mass of the Juggernaut. Great you can now introduce the momentum equation.
In the last fight you can add juice to the lesson and make momentum really memorable, although you might also want to mute the rather unkind name this villain gives to Kitty. Here the Juggernaut is featured in an amazing scene where he smashes through lots of people, heavy vehicles and walls, so again you can reinforce the concept by asking what causes the Juggernaut to build so much momentum. Get the kids to think about different ideas, e.g. is it his speed? He doesn’t seem particularly fast when he goes through walls, so it must be his mass. But, although he’s very big, he doesn’t really look like a huge giant. What should happen in the Juggernaut body to make this physically possible? Well, he probably has the ability to change the density of molecules in his body, so that his mass increases greatly and he can build enormous momentum and smash into things.
When he eventually tries to crash into Kitty and the “Cure” , they dodge and the Juggernaut (who actually is quite stupid) crashes into the wall and falls unconscious, because the “Cure” is the boy who has the power of taking away the powers of any mutant who is near him. So, the mass of the Juggernaut must have become less here…
I hope you like this idea and you will share other ideas on the Physics of Superheroes. Please, let me know if you will use this idea and how your pupils responded to it!