Science Behind Superheroes – The Exchange


Superhero movies often welcome science in their scenario. Logical. Think of good old Thor, when he travels from his realm of Asgard to Earth, back and forth.

In order to be accurate, Marvel Studios would need to have quick access to scientists who know a lot about the Einstein-Rosen Bridge Theory. And where can they find such a professional? Within The Science and Entertainment Exchange. What is this thingy, you may ask?

The Science and Entertainment Exchange is a program of the National Academy of Science, or NAS. Its aim is to link professionals to both the entertainment industry as well as to scientists, in order to provide films and TV series with appropriate and realistic science.

This ensures that the scenarios are ‘real’ and make sense from a scientific perspective.

Science behind superheroes

Please leave this to the experts. For those of you who are budding Spider-Man please do not try and replicate any of these experiments out at home, ok?

In addition to the fact that the superheroes’ movies will make sense, this exchange allows scenario writers to expand their imagination, since the information they will gather from engineers will give them new ideas.

Of course, this is a win-win situation: not only does the work of scientists get to be known by the public, but they can also extend the reach of their research, since they will have to deal with the – sometimes crazy – imagination of the authors.

The Science Involved

When we speak about science behind superheroes, we, of course, are referring to the special effects and advanced computer graphics, when it comes to movies.

But we also refer to what the powers each superhero has, like flying for Superman, or swinging between buildings on his webs for Spider-Man. I’m going to elaborate on this last example, because I love it!

You all know Spider-Man, and if you don’t, that’s ok. The question is: can we, humans, do what spiders can? Spiders use dry adhesion in order to adhere to surfaces. In addition to this, the Van der Waals forces give them all the strength they need to cling and climb on their silk lines.

So far, human beings have realised that applying sticking glue to their shoes is not exactly the best way to climb up walls.

Bubble Gum

Research is still ongoing and is using robots and stickers to recreate spiders’ dry adhesion techniques.

Velcro is being considered, but has a main downside: it requires two surfaces, while spiders, with their webs, have prepared their playground and reduced it to one surface only.


Scientists will continue their research until they have found the exact replica. Will they ever? To be continued…

Tony Stark and Artificial Intelligence

Good old Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a prime example of a superhero using artificial intelligence.

Originally, J.A.R.V.I.S., an acronym for ‘Just A Rather Very Intelligent System’, was the information technology language of Tony’s computer.

As Iron Man’s armour improved with time, so did that language. J.A.R.V.I.S. was upgraded to an artificial intelligence system, in charge of the management of Tony’s various businesses, as well as security.

Iron Man

Later on, J.A.R.V.I.S. technology was incorporated in each Iron Man’s armor, allowing Tony Stark to get crucial information during combat.

From then on, we could not imagine Tony wearing his suit without having Paul Bettany’s voice in his head helping him during fights. It was inconceivable!

Ultimately, J.A.R.V.I.S. was destroyed by Ultron, but Tony merged its remaining parts with the personality of Ultron and with an Infinity Stone, to create VISION, a new being dedicated to the protection of humanity.

VISION is made out of vibranium, a fictional metal that does not exist in our world. Its property is to absorb all vibrations and ultimately, to transform it into light. Is this possible? The answer to that question is yes: it is called sonoluminescence.

Let Me Introduce You To Transmetropolitan

I already mentioned Darren Ellis and Darick Robertson, both co-authors of this cult graphic novel series, Transmetropolitan.


Transmetropolitan depicts the adventures of an anti-hero called Spider Jerusalem. He is a journalist who’s fighting against two successive despotic US presidents.

This graphic novel series was written between 1997 and 2002, but the action takes place in the 23rd century, or so we think.

One of the themes of Transmetropolitan is the technological alteration of humanity. For instance, the vice-president was grown in a clone-tank in order to have a clean criminal record.

Another character, like Fred Christ, is an inter-species body modification fetishist. So much for body enhancement.

Spider Jerusalem, on his side, uses Internet the way Wikileaks does to release critical information of the power in place.

In addition to this, he has a diarrhea-inducing ray gun in order to defend himself. I don’t think this will ever exist is our world, but let’s silently cherish the idea.

There are some scientists or engineers who are continuously striving, whether it is through fiction or in real life, to create the ultimate human, a super advanced human.

An example of such a person is the one and only Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X. He is currently working on a ‘Brain-Machine’ project which he plans to trial on humans by 2020.

What will this Neuralink Coro. project involve and what is its purpose? Ultimately, to have micro-chips implanted in our brains so that they will directly link up with computers. This has already been successfully tested on monkeys.

Look Who’s Talking

I had Lasik Eye Surgery. Unfortunately this was not to give me a super hero power like Heat Vision, similar to Superman. It was simply because I was sort-sighted and it started to make me feel anxious.

Lasik Eye Surgery

I thought, well, if one day, while I’m in bed, there is an earthquake and my glasses get lost or destroyed, I won’t have the time to get orientated and escape.

And as much as I believe in Superman, I don’t think I would be hanging around waiting for him to come and scoop me off my feet away from danger!


So, I decided to undergo eye surgery, even though everything that has to do with the eyes scares the hell out of me. I did this a few years ago and never regretted it.

Not only is the result immediately noticeable, but the surgery in itself does not hurt at all, as opposed to going to the dentist.

Although I haven’t acquired any superhero vision, I certainly feel more confident, since I don’t depend on having to wear glasses now to help me see properly. Occasionally I may wear a pair of goggles – but this strictly for drinking beer!

What Does ‘Super’ Actually Mean?

Whether we are talking about super heroes or super villains, what do we mean? Surely, we imply that both types of characters evolve outside the Law.

The Law

The super villain is an out-law, while the super hero acts in accordance to his/her own sense of justice. I would be very happy to read your thoughts on this, in the ‘Comments’ section below.

By the way, talking about super villains, keep in mind that the movie ‘Joker’ with Joaquin Phoenix, will be released on October 4th, 2019. We will definitely talk about it!

15 thoughts on “Science Behind Superheroes – The Exchange”

  1. Wow! You have opened up into the worldview of the superheroes universe and what led to them being in existence. The superman has always been the most fascinating to me. How on earth would a human turned himself to a machine. Though being mirrored towards Elon Musk but then, it is still cool to know about them. Thanks

    1. Hi Tracy! Have you seen the movie ‘The Island’, with Ewan Mc Gregor? It is as if sci-fi authors get it right, sometimes. By the way, since we are currently talking a lot about climate change, lots of authors had also predicted the drama we are facing today. Cheers, Anso

  2. I have always wondered as well, how do these movie makers get to put in so much accuracy of science in their movies. There are so many movies to talk about and I think if you start talking about super hero movies that have the basis of science, you probably wouldn’t finish writing. The Hulk is a very good example where he himself was a scientist.
    I didn’t know that there was a league of scientists that help those in the entertainment industry. On the issue of super hero or super villain, I think it’s just something added to give it some intensity. Lol

    1. Hi Henderson! I agree with you about the question of super hero and super villain, but I also think it reflects on us. Yes, the Science and Entertainment Exchange Program is such a cool organisation! They just need to secure their website. LOL!

  3. I grew up loving science and also the Marvel and D.C. universe.  I never knew that they really have access to a National Science and Entertainment Exchange.  A.I. has been introduced in movies even before Iron Man.  It is interesting that movies from 25 years ago are showing up in our current technology.  I love this review of science related to Super Heroes.  Thanks for the informative post.


    1. Hello Jay! Many thanks for your comment. Yes, sometimes, it feels that today’s scientists are improving science elaborated a long time ago, before they make a new discovery. I must confess, I am flabbergasted! Talk to you soon. Anso

  4. Hi Ann. Wow.. I had no idea that the makers of our fantastic superhero comics and movies actually investigated with real science to check the possibility or feasibility of their characters abilities. I have loved anything science fiction or fantasy related for the most part of my life, and I try not to miss any movies in particular. I can see Tony Starks iron man abilities coming to reality one day with the help of AI. I remember something my father told me many years ago when I was a small child, he said that anything you can imagine in this world is possible. I am starting to believe more and more that he was correct. But I’m not too sure about spider man yet. Thanks Jim

    1. Hello Jim! Yes, your daddy is a visionary. It can be scary, if you ask me. Take a look at Elon Musk’s Neuralink project. My oh my! I also love sci-fi, especially the books from Connie Willis, about time travel. Cheers, Anso

  5. I didnt know about the  The Science and Entertainment Exchange. That’s a very big deal I think being able to collaborate with scientists to make good movies that have scientific authenticity. I understand how it works and why you say it’s a win win. Knowing that the scientists also work hard just so they can also advance their finds is really good. I believe that in a few years, the superhero movie industry will be more thriving. Nice information here!

    1. Hello John! Yes, super hero movies are trending! It’s crazy! And you can find a movie that is in accordance with any taste. Look at the upcoming Joker with Joaquin Phoenix. I am sure it is something we’ve never seen in terms of super villains! Take care. Anso

  6. Hello again!

    Once again you have dazzled me with a superb article. It seems so logical now that you have mentioned it, but again, I did not realise they they actually worked with scientist to make their comics/movies as accurate as possible. Wow!

    The aspect of science and movies/comic has always intrigued me completely. If these bizarre ideas can be thought up for fantasy, I am sure that they do actually exist. I find it very scary, but very interesting at the same time.

    I never realised Mr Elon Musk was not only on a Space Mission, but also a Neuralink mission. Being able to control devices with our minds? Where will will be in 20 years?

    Thanks again

    1. Hi Renée! I think that in 20 years, I’ll still be alive, so I’ll let you know. Thank God The Exchange exists, otherwise you would still see explosions in space! Elon Musk is everywhere, if you ask me! Talk to you soon! Anso

      1. Superb! I won’t reveal how old I will be in 20 years, but hopefully still sitting here are catching up on all of your superhero news!

        Elon Musk is certainly everywhere. Such a clever man. Strange, but a genius that is for sure. Would be super cool if Elon could get involved in some of the movies. That would something to behold.


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