Claiming Kin Symposium 2013

Superhero Science!  Fact and Fiction in Superhero Comics

Ellis Library Special Collections Exhibit, March 3-28, 2014
The Colonnade, Ellis Library, University of Missouri

 “I’ve got to know science thoroughly to become a scientific detective.”
– Batman, Detective Comics #190

Science is a central theme of superhero comics. There’s a seemingly plausible explanation for just about everything that happens in the Marvel or DC universe, including the biological origins of super powers. For example, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the Hulk all get their powers from exposure to radioactivity, which supposedly changes their DNA. The X-Men carry rare genetic mutations that give them incredible, superhuman powers. Villains such as Mr. Freeze and Dr. Octopus rely on technology such as cryogenics and prosthetics, while others clone and genetically engineer their minions in secret laboratories. Many superheroes are even scientists themselves. To name just a few: Dr. Bruce Banner, the Hulk, is a nuclear physicist; Pamela Isley, also known as Poison Ivy, is a botanist and biochemist; and Barry Allen, the Flash, is a forensic chemist. 

Although comic book writers may try to make superheroes as scientifically accurate as possible, they aren’t in the business for its educational aspects.  It’s all about entertainment and believability.  “I’m the least scientific person you’ll ever know,” legendary Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee explained in a recent PBS documentary, “so I tried to seem scientific with our characters.  The whole trick is to make something seem as if you gave it a lot of thought and did a lot of research about it.”  Lee and other writers crafted superheroes that may seem plausible to readers drawing on a rudimentary knowledge of science, but that seldom stand up to scrutiny. 

How does this veneer of science shape our perceptions of biology, genetics, technology and the limits of current knowledge?  This exhibition considers that question with an in-depth look at four themes in superhero comics: Evolution, Genetic Modifications, Technology, and Anatomy.  Each section challenges the viewer to identify the ways that comics and superheroes have contributed to his or her understanding of science and the natural world. 

Can you tell the difference between science fact and science fiction?

As part of the Superhero Science! exhibit, Dr. Tim Evans will talk on:

“Everything is Toxic: Do We Need Superheroes or Historical and Scientific Literacy to Survive in a Toxic World?”

Wednesday March 12, 11am-12pm
The Colonnade, Ellis Library, University of Missouri

Dr. Tim Evans is the Toxicology Section Leader Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory and Associate Professor Department of Veterinary Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Evans is the recipient of a 2013 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence, and dressed in mask and cape, “The Antidote” is Tim Evans’ alter ego, spicing up the field of toxicology at MU for 12 years.

Science Cafe Columbia presents, "The Thoughts of Plants"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 6pm
Broadway Brewery, 816 E Broadway, Columbia, Missouri

A "Science Cafe" cafe is an informal gathering of people interested in listening to or participating in a discussion on a popular science topic. Science Cafe's are grassroot, community run organizations that seek to inspire minds and share scientific knowledge within the community. Anyone is welcome at any Science Cafe event!

This week, Dr. Jack Schultz will lead us on a conversation about plant "intelligence" and how plants perceive and respond the world around them.

Interactive Theatre Performance:  “Dialogues about Breast Cancer

Thursday, March 13, at 4:35-6:00 pm 
M105 (MU Med School bldg.)

Stories are among the best ways to get messages across, and theater has a special ability to draw us into a situation, providing a strong vicarious experience.

There is probably no better example of a science-based exchange than the dialog between a medical caregiver and patient. Can theater help improve that dialog? Can it be an effective way to teach science-based messaging?

The Mizzou Interactive Theatre Troupe will present 3 short scripts authored by Dr. Heather Carver, Chair of the MU Theatre Department, based on her ethnographic research with breast cancer survivors and physicians. This interdisciplinary project brings together researchers from Medicine, Nursing, and Theatre to explore how live theatre may help health care professionals improve their communication with patients. It also demonstrates techniques that can be applied to science communication more broadly. Following each play, the actors will remain in character to answer audience questions. Audience members may also choose to come onstage, replace a character, and try to solve the communication problem depicted in the script. Come step into the story and resolve the issues!
Project funding has been provided by the Susan B. Komen Mid-Missouri Affiliate and Mizzou Advantage. The event is free and open to the public.

Be a Science Sleuth at MU! DECODE a Secret Message!

Saturday March 15, 1pm-3pm, Bond Life Sciences Center (LSC)

Calling all K-5 children and their families: MU and Columbia Public Schools invite you to learn and have fun with science and engineering challenges!

Collect your secret message card in the LSC, get your card stamped at over 15 hands-on science and engineering challenge booths set up on campus and DECODE the Secret Message!

Sponsored by the LSSP, the MU Office of Science Outreach, and Columbia Public Schools. The event is free and open to K-5 children. The booths will include a Chemistry show and a Physics show.

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