The Science of Captain Atom #2

Posted by RazzaTazz (11941 posts) - - Show Bio

Issue #2 of Captain Atom produced an above average amount of science for a single issue so I thought I might take a closer look at some of the science within as it was presented sequentially throughout the issue (there are lots of spoilers here by the way) 


Volcanoes are one of the staples of a disaster type of event in fiction.   In this case there is a volcano in New York City, which as it is nowhere near to a volcanic area seems extremely unlikely.  However, even with the suspension of that rather impossibility the exact manner in which Captain Atom dealt with is not really explained.   Generally speaking though just diving into a volcano won’t do a whole lot as the real force of action is miles below the earth’s crust.   I guess using the principles of comic book science it might be possible to stop one, but it would require a whole lot more effort than would be assumed as significant amounts of energy would be needed to change the flow of magma.  

Verdict:   Comic science

Chemical composition of the human body

After Nathaniel drags himself out of the volcano he is forced to reconstruct his physical body.   Although his origin is later described it appears that underneath it all he is still part human.   He thereafter goes through a list of the elements which comprise the human body.   Granted he misses quite a few, though to be fair of the ones he missed most scientists are as of yet unsure what all of them do in our bodies.  

Verdict:   Good science 

Intercepting cell phone messages (texts)

It stands to reason that if the character has some control over electromagnetic energy that he would be able to detect radio waves as well.   When a cell phone sends a text though it is communicating in a pre-established set of programming where binary transmissions from one computer (the phone) are interpreted by another computer (at the phone company) and then sent to another computer (the other cell phone.)   Intercepting voices on cell phones might be possible (if they weren’t encrypted) but unless he has the programming code in his head discerning texts he wouldn’t just hear a bunch of random static.  

Verdict: Bad science 


This is a fluid with zero viscosity and infinite thermal conductivity.   The decision to push Captain Atom into a sphere full of this stuff is a good idea provided that they could produce the stuff (which would be very energy intensive.)   Although it is comic book like in its presentation it does sort of make sense, something a real world scientist might try.

Verdict: Good science 

The Quantum Field

Granted this is a common element of the Captain Atom story, but it does show up here.   Though quantum fields seem unlikely as something which could be tapped into, as quantum researchers say “anyone who knows anything about quantum physics knows nothing about quantum physics.”   So while unlikely this one gets a pass

Verdict: Comic science 

Cancer fighting

In the climactic moment the Captain goes to the aid of a boy suffering from brain tumours.   Although this was the high point of the issue from a plot sense it was the low point from a scientific sense.   He talks about breaking down the cancer cells proton by proton.   Put in one way there are far more than a billion of billion protons in 1 gram of hydrogen (in fact there are a lot more.)   The time to break down one gram even if he could do something ridiculous like a million protons per second would still take several centuries.   It would have been better to say he did it cell by cell or nucleus by nucleus.  

Verdict: Bad science

#1 Posted by EdBlank (750 posts) - - Show Bio

I love this. I get so sick of "comic science". What's the point of even saying the characters are doing all this fantastic stuff if it's not even quasi realistic. I don't even buy that the writers don't know enough to write intelligently, not with Google around.

#2 Posted by lectriccolossus (463 posts) - - Show Bio

Really enjoyed this. Its funny when in the battle forums, a lot of bad science is thrown around lol

#3 Posted by SC (14403 posts) - - Show Bio

The Science of Captain Atom #2 Blog 
Verdict: Good Blog

#4 Posted by Ms. Omega (4666 posts) - - Show Bio

@SC said:

The Science of Captain Atom #2 Blog

Verdict: Good Blog


#5 Posted by Nasar7 (161 posts) - - Show Bio

Agreed, the comic science is very silly in spots but overall if you suspend your disbelief it was a pretty enjoyable read.

#6 Posted by Static Shock (48052 posts) - - Show Bio

Interesting analysis.

Krul is making Captain Atom too much like Dr. Manhattan.

#7 Posted by RazzaTazz (11941 posts) - - Show Bio
@Static Shock: Not so sure its only two issues in, plus that wouldnt be so bad anyway would it?
#8 Posted by Static Shock (48052 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: Well, his appearance is one thing. Another thing is his ability to reform, alter his size, and loads of other things. As far as it being bad, I would have to think so. Originally, Manhattan was based on the original Captain Atom, although they were both very different. I'm just very nostalgic of the original and what set him apart from Manhattan.

#9 Posted by RazzaTazz (11941 posts) - - Show Bio
@Static Shock: Like so many other series though I am keen to see where this will go.  I am not going to write it off so early just because of some similarities
#10 Posted by Static Shock (48052 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz: Don't get me wrong. I don't like the direction, but I'm reading just to see how far it will go.

#11 Posted by RazzaTazz (11941 posts) - - Show Bio
@Static Shock: I personally think it is still too early to pass judgment
#12 Posted by Static Shock (48052 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz said:

@Static Shock: I personally think it is still too early to pass judgment

I agree. But, I'm the biggest Captain Atom fan here. My criticism isn't justified. LOL.

#13 Posted by RazzaTazz (11941 posts) - - Show Bio
@Static Shock: I had no idea you even liked comics :P
#14 Posted by Static Shock (48052 posts) - - Show Bio

@RazzaTazz said:

@Static Shock: I had no idea you even liked comics :P

Huh? LOL. Strange.

I love comics!

#15 Posted by BKole (560 posts) - - Show Bio

Nice to see someone using Science to actually examine comics. I often do it myself, and most of the time they're found wanting.

I'm not enjoying the two Nuclear Heroes books, sadly. Captain Atom and Firestorm just aren't doing it for me, which is weird, because by all accounts I SHOULD like what's going on.

#16 Posted by Jonny_Anonymous (38992 posts) - - Show Bio

You should do this with Firestorm and Mr Terrific 

#17 Posted by RazzaTazz (11941 posts) - - Show Bio
@spiderbat87: Haven't read firestorm yet this week, its on the lineup though
#18 Posted by RazzaTazz (11941 posts) - - Show Bio
@spiderbat87: Just finished one on Firestorm
#19 Posted by thestarguy (373 posts) - - Show Bio

@Static Shock said:

@RazzaTazz said:

@Static Shock: I personally think it is still too early to pass judgment

I agree. But, I'm the biggest Captain Atom fan here. My criticism isn't justified. LOL.

Actually, Static Shock, you and I will have to arm-wrestle one day for the title of "biggest Captain Atom Fan". But I am definitely experiencing similar trepidation about what is currently going on with Captain Atom. The beauty of the Silver skinned Captain Atom is that, in many ways, his entire body behaved like a quantum particle and Cary Bates knew that, even if he didn't state it in so many words. The science was inherently more streamlined and more eloquent. But Captain Atom #2 just had me shaking my head during much of it, although I feel that I still have to withhold judgement.....for now. LOL

#20 Posted by tonis (6561 posts) - - Show Bio

Captain Atom is a great subject for your articles, there's a lot of opportunity for analysis.

I'd like to take the chemical makeup and the intercepting phone calls idea a step further and propose that if his body was in some way capable of receiving these signals that it wouldn't be unreasonable to think his brain could adapt to tune in and decrypt this data just as it would any other senses.

Sort of like how humans learn languages. :)

The brain itself is a computer, albeit we only know how to utilize a extremely small portion for primary senses. It would be interesting to see the writing explore how the difference in his makeup affects that processing in his brain to perform tasks we currently use machines for.

#21 Posted by RazzaTazz (11941 posts) - - Show Bio
@tonis: interesting point but that would be in the comic book science realm

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