This week I was looking forward to Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #3 to continue my sort of regular feature as of late where I look at the science of a particular issue. However, after reading it I can say that there was almost no science in it worth mentioning (though there were a few things relating to policy surrounding science.) Without one of the regular DC science related titles coming through for me, one of the non-science focused titles did. Aquaman #3 had a fair amount of science in it (there are spoilers here of course)
Arthropods, Shellfish, and Pressure
The first series of panels here deals with the pods which the monsters use to capture and immobilize their prey. Interesting concept especially so that they keep them alive inside. There is actually a lot of science here. The concept of prey immobilization with a secreted substance is one which is related not to marine life but to spiders. Not all spiders do this but it is common enough that the predator will keep their meal alive but unable to escape. Incidentally, there are very few fish in the world which have a venomous bit or that use venom aggressively. One group of animals that does? Spiders. So are these things from the bottom of the ocean actually spiders? My answer is simple … how would I know? (but probably not, I will deal with that later.) There are other marine life that do this though, namely some shellfish (who are the most poisonous of animals). The pod itself is well conceived as well. This ties back into the liquid material they breathed in the movie the Abyss. It existed then and it exists now. In terms of water roughly speaking for every time you descend an extra thirty three feet you will experience an increase on one atmosphere of pressure. Pressure is directly related to volume when it comes to gases. So a SCUBA diver at 33 feet has twice as much air in his or her lungs than a person does at the surface. Of course a liquid will also react to this increase in pressure, just not as quickly and will be able to find equilibrium easier. Also as said later the pod is made of the same type of material that you would find in a deep sea diving suit. As opposed to SCUBA, these aim to actually protect from the outside with what is basically a suit of armour against the pressure. It still doesn’t stop the pressure completely, but the outside pressure is far less of a factor. Thus if you were to put pressure on something hard like that which was filled with fluid, it is likely that the thing inside would stay alive. Incidentally these monsters coming from the depths would require the ability to withstand a massive change in body pressure.
Verdict: Comic Science (but some really well thought out stuff).
I liked that they put this in here, but there are a few problems about this. First of all for Aquaman to ascertain that the things must be from the bottom of the ocean because they use bioluminescence is a bit of a stretch. Fireflies and glowworms are not from the bottom of the ocean after all. Also something which needs to consume 20 to 30 times its weight in food per day to function is pretty ridiculous. I am going to deal with evolution and the food web later in this analysis, but suffice to say anything that requires that much energy on daily basis is probably doomed to extinction. Also bioluminescence is not very energy consuming, for the firefly for example the amount used in its mating (which is what its used for) is of negligible value in the overall mating process. So these things are using bioluminescence to light rock concerts, or they just aren’t using that much energy.
Verdict: Bad Science
Laws of Motion and Properties of Gases
Incidentally someone asked me if I could do something on jumping recently, but I generally only take them as they come, but here it is. Characters that are able to leap large distances are kind of an oddity in comics. I think I remember reading somewhere once about how Superman, if he did jump over a building in a single bound, would create a shockwave that would likely level the building. Additionally the thing which hurts humans is not speed but rather acceleration and the ability to jump in such a manner would likely create a lot of damage to the internal organs of a human (though maybe not a superhuman.) From this vantage point though there is something wrong here. Jumping off in such a manner is going to require a lot of energy, by the laws of motion tell us for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So seeing as they started on a wooden boardwalk with the weight of three people (well two people and a monster) in one small area, chances are this is going to poke a hole through the wood, which while strong, likely couldn't handle that much force concentrated in one area. Also the two characters managed to jump simultaneously twice in the same issue, which seems pretty hard (though I guess Olympic divers do it). Although it is not in this issue, I was asked to look at jumping specifically as it relates to change in direction mid-air. I guess some comic book writers have written in the past that a character is stronger enough to change direction mid-air. This sort of doesn’t follow with the properties of gases. It has been a while since I took the chemistry of gases, but I think the number is something to the degree of gases being 95% nothing. In comparison to matter and liquid this essentially means that the friction you get from air is far less than that of other forms of matter. Skydivers can change direction in mid-air, but generally only by changing their body position and still the largest vector of direction involved is straight down. The strength it would require to flex your muscles to create enough friction with air to create a change in motion would likely create a shockwave that would kill everything is a significantly large radius.
Verdict: Bad science
Hydrothermal Vents, the Food Web and Evolution
I liked the reference to geothermal vents here. They represent an extreme to which life has found a way to live despite the harshness of the environment. While the animals found near a vent are pretty alien looking, they are of course still completely terrestrial in origin, that is to say that life didn’t originate there but originated up here. This ties this back into the spiders though, spiders would not have been one of the organisms capable of migrating to the bottom of the ocean for numerous reasons. Of course things evolve, and this is one of the driving factors of life. For a scientist to say that the monsters “are an entirely new chain of evolution” is kind of a ridiculous statement. Every species on this planet is an entirely new chain of evolution. When it comes to evolution though there are certain other mitigating factors. Evolution depends partially on the ability of a species to survive, and a species which essentially eats everything in its path is not going to survive. This is one of the fundamental aspects of the food web, everything needs to eat everything else in the right proportions or it simply will exhaust the food web and therefore starve. Of course, that is why these things have come to the surface world, but how they ever evolved into a monstrous like creature while consuming everything they see for an ability which is far too energy consuming (bioluminescence) really does not make all that much sense from a scientific perspective. I did appreciate this though as it talks about animals on the verge of extinction, which as an environmental science student I find to be of some importance.
Verdict: Comic Science
There it is, that is my longest one of these yet. There was a lot of science in here, which I applaud. Most of it was poorly represented or poorly conceived. Good thing the quality of the issue made up for it (Aquaman is one of the best series out there at the moment.)