On Friday, I hosted a live Reddit Q&A on the Science Behind Superheroes along with several other GE researchers, including Chief Scientist Jim Bray, Physicist Scott Price and Edison Engineer Justin McHugh. We had a great time answering questions on topics that ranged from shoe treads for running at super speed to a Mom looking for a truth-compelling lasso to use on her teenaged kids. While we tried to stick to the science, we did have some fun with some of the answers as well. Click here to view the Reddit Q&A or check out this article written about the chat by Jay Deitcher, an educator on comic history.
We also received questions via Twitter, and you can read our responses below. Take a look and feel free to leave any of your questions you have in the comment box beneath this post. Also, with all of the excitement around Superheroes, we were inspired to create a superhero of our own: GENIUS MAN. Genius Man sprung from our imagination, but the technologies he possesses are real and impact the world today.
Be sure to check him out and share him with your kids to show them that you don’t have to be a Superhero, to have superpowers. You can become an engineer or scientist and employ technologies to make possible what was only dreamed of in the past.
Questions on the Science Behind Superheroes asked via Twitter
Can I become invisible? – @Xafaryab
By the known laws of physics, it is impossible to become invisible in the sense of becoming undetectable by any means. It would be possible to bend light around you by a large gravity field, but that would put you in great danger. Some ‘metamaterials’ can deflect light around you, but for only certain wavelengths.
How deep of a crater are we talking for #manofsteel to take off standing still on concrete? – @LCfromLCVA
Worst case would be if he wanted to get somewhere as fast as possible (near the speed of light), which would require all the energy he could produce (since light speed requires infinite energy), which would produce maximum breakage of the concrete.
Do you believe there is alien life outside of the Milky Way? – @Psolocup14
I absolutely do, simply by the statistics of the number of stars and planets that exist. The question is whether humans would ever encounter that life and to what extent it is intelligent (rather than something simple like algae). For a fun read on possible answers to Fermi’s Paradox (look it up on Wikipedia) see http://io9.com/11-of-the-weirdest-solutions-to-the-fermi-paradox-456850746
Is X-ray vision even possible? – @AlyssaAlda
It is possible with technology in the sense that our medical and inspection x-ray machines do it all the time. The superman way is not very realistic. What is the source of the X-rays? Why do they penetrate walls of the building but not also what is inside? How do those X-Rays return to his eyes with the information? X-ray technology has a source of x-rays that go through the object then separately a detector to read information from them.
Could the Sun give someone from another galaxy super strength? – @DustyiD
No. Our sun type and emission is common throughout the universe. If a yellow sun makes a red sun alien get such powers – as yellow sun creatures, would humans have similar boosts in a blue sun’s system? Also note the energies giving him this power must be able to penetrate the earth’s core since he is not hampered at night. I tend to prefer the “heavier gravity of Krypton” explanation for his flight (jumping), strength and toughness powers (ignoring heat vision, x-ray vision, etc.)
How come no one ever saw a cape crammed inside of Clark Kent’s dress shirt? – @AudioGasoline
Everyone knows Clark Kent is superman. No one is willing to call him on it. That is why he does not bother with a mask. I mean really, would you? It is easiest and safest top just play along.
But you know what GE, I’ll humor you: how does Spider-Man stick to walls through his suit? – @Doncates
According to the comics, or at least a battle with electro from the 90s some time (I was a kid so I don’t recall the issue), it is “static”. Electro uses his powers to render spidey unable to for a while.
I’m interested in obtaining Spiderman powers… any suggestions? – @karynrae
Probably not a good idea to use trial and error on this with an empirical study. There are some really nasty spiders out there.
Let’s be honest – we all want to fly! What would make #ManofSteel type of flight happen? – @JLanie 4m
Nothing, although jet packs are probably closest to it. Some base jumpers with ‘squirrel suits’ consider themselves a flying as they fall.
How much upward force would Superman need to generate to save a falling 747 assuming free fall and full passenger load? - @The_Nuch
Most likely his tiny hands would create points of stress on the airframe and thus more power. He’d do better to guide and glide it to a safe landing than try to hold it.
Can GE build an Iron man suit? - @sc2pace
Not like in the movies, but some elements (e.g., armor, exoskeleton strength) are possible.
About the sonic boom. Is it possible something with that little mass to make a boom as loud as shown? – @Adnab80
All supersonic objects create a sonic boom, but the size of the boom does depend on the size and shape of the object. A Bullet or the tip of a Bullwhip are examples of small mass objects that “boom”.
Would Superman’s top speed be limited to the speed of light? If not, does moving faster make him invisible? – @cyclist19591m
Some equations predict the speed of light is self-limiting, that your size and mass grow as you approach it, so you are never able to achieve it without infinite energy.
With all of the excitement around Superheroes currently, our scientists were inspired to create a superhero of their own. Meet GENIUS MAN.
GENIUS MAN is our imagination, but the technologies he possesses are very real and impact the world today. For example, GENIUS MAN can fly. Did you know that GE developed the first U.S. jet engine? Check out each of his superpowers and click “more” to learn more about the real world applications GE researchers are driving.
Also, be sure to share your favorite technology with friends on Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail. We’re curious to see which superpower people like best! Click on the photo below to see GENIUS MAN come to life.
As a fan of comic book heroes, I’m looking forward to Superman: Man of Steel, which opens tomorrow, June 14. Here at GE’s Research organization, with 3,000 scientists, I’m not the only superhero fan. In fact, a few of us got to thinking: what powers and abilities of superheroes are enabled or emulated by technologies on which we already work every day?
These could range from Laser Technology to Advanced Materials to Systems and Analytics driving the Industrial Internet revolution. We thought we could come up with a pretty cool superhero of our own. And in fact, we did.
On Friday, June 14th at 2 PM EST, we will introduce him to the world during a live Reddit IamA (Q&A session). A few colleagues (featured below) will join me in hosting this question and answer session to discuss the science behind your favorite superheroes (or villains).
For most superheroes, the science fiction is rooted in some technical reality. Batman is a great example—his utility belt and equipment such as the Batmobile are loaded with cool technology. Our superhero will be no different.
We hope you can join us for the discussion and to meet the newest addition to our research organization. Below you’ll see a sneak peak of our new superhero and tomorrow, you’ll see what he can do… when we bring him to life.
Hi, I am Waseem Faidi and I lead the Inspection and Metrology Lab at GE Global Research in developing novel inspection and process monitoring solutions for various GE high performance parts, including aircraft engines, power generation turbines, and oil and gas equipment. You might say we do healthcare for machines. In our world, a stress fracture isn’t a broken bone but rather a defect in a part.
GE, of course, is well known for being pioneers in medical imaging. One of our early research pioneers, William Coolidge, developed a safe x-ray tube that greatly facilitated the use of x-ray for medical diagnosis. We have been pioneers in other imaging modalities as well, including MRI, CT and Ultrasound.
The great thing is my lab has been able to leverage all that expertise to transform industrial inspection. My team includes over 15 scientists and engineers, most with Ph.D. degrees, in five inspection modalities; ultrasound, electromagnetic, x-ray, flash Infrared (IR), and optical techniques.
The chart above gives an overview of the lab capabilities and growth areas. Throughout the past 30 years, the lab’s leading-edge research has yielded many innovations that include leveraging the GE Healthcare high-resolution x-ray flat panel digital imaging and phased array ultrasound imaging for industrial applications as well as the development of wide-area flash IR imaging systems for the inspection of GE aircraft engines complex-geometry metallic and composite parts.
For the past decade, the lab has been developing inspection technologies to support the development of high-temperature composites parts for GE gas turbines and aircraft engines. The development involves techniques to see inside the parts and protection coating for detecting defects and measuring dimensions of key part features. These technologies include computed tomography (CT) and flash infrared imaging. The extensive GE Healthcare experience has, once again, been leveraged here to advance the state of the art of the CT technique for industrial applications. Using commercially available systems, such as the Nano-CT machines from GE Inspection Technologies, the team was able to develop reconstruction and artifact reduction algorithms to significantly improve the detection capabilities of unwanted defects in the high-temperature composite parts. Assisted defect recognition (ADR) techniques have also been developed so that the image evaluation step of the inspection process can be done much faster and more
The Flash IR technique that was developed at Global Research and deployed at NASA and multiple GE locations for research applications is being industrialized for the inspection of aircraft engine parts in the production environment (images show a schematic of a lab Flash IR system and example inspection images of an aircraft engine turbine blade). The technique uses a set of high power flash lamps to heat the surface of the part slightly above room temperature for a very short period of time, and a very high speed IR camera to monitor the part surface temperature as the heat dissipate inside the part. The temperature profiles obtained with this measurement are, then, processed to detect defects hidden behind surface.
There’s the old saying that there is more to life than meets the eye. That is certainly true in the world of industrial inspection! Check out the short video below to hear learn more, straight from the Inspection Lab.
The average adult’s heart beats about 70 times a minute. With each beat, the left ventricle of your heart is pumping blood throughout your body, delivering the nutrients essential for you to wake up each morning, go to bed each night—and live, in between.
But what happens when that left ventricle can’t pump that oxygen-rich blood 70 times a minute? Your cells, the roughly 100 trillion, microscopic building blocks of the body simply cannot survive. When they say it’s the little things in life that matter—they’re not lying.
My name is Jason Castle, and I am a biologist five days out of the week, and an EMT for seven. There are a few things that make both of these roles very important. As an EMT or first responder, my job is to get to the scene and figure out what the patient needs—fast. For critical patents (the ones with oxygen-deprived cells), time is everything. Seconds matter. While we cannot give all medications, we can give oxygen to keep that essential component of blood flowing to the cells until we determine the issue at hand heart.
The next step? Get to the hospital, ASAP.
If you live far, it could take at least 30 minutes to transport. And that’s just arriving. What about the time it takes to get an x-ray of the heart and to analyze that image to understand what’s wrong? As an EMT, I understand first hand the criticality of time. I’ve heard stories of hearts diminishing from 70 beats per minute, to 50, to 20, to flatline. Sometimes, there’s not much we can do, but other times—there is.
Becoming an EMT has made me realize the importance of my day job. I, along with many others, am researching technology that can significantly reduce the time it takes to get to definitive care. I’m talking no more long rides to the emergency room where the true care begins, but in the place where emergency care belongs—the back of an ambulance.
What if you could see the heart right when the patient complains of chest pain? How about if you can see the heart in ways a still image just cannot capture? What if you could treat that patient, right when that real-time image depicts a sign of soon-to-be cellular danger?
In the below video, you’ll hear about the technology researchers are working on that will make time no longer the problem, but part of the solution. If we can start care within minutes of identifying the issue with the patient, outcomes would could be a lot different and the world of emergency medicine would change, as we know it.
As National Emergency Medical Services week is under way, I am proud to be a part of an organization of people who are working to save lives each day. It’s these people who inspire me to help develop this technology that could lead to less time in emergency rooms and more time with loved ones.
Check out the video below as well as some photos of our Emergency Medical Services team here at Global Research, comprised of fire, rescue, HAZMAT and EMTs.
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