Superhero films are big business, as demonstrated by their box office receipts: ‘Captain America: Civil War’ became the 12th highest grossing film of all time when it made more than $1.1 billion dollars worldwide. The superhero genre is very much here to stay. A conversation between two scientists and superhero-fans Barry Fitzgerald and Dan Hassler-Forest, moderated by Linda Duits.
One of the driving forces behind the success of the superhero film is the escapism it provides to a fictitious world jam-packed with people possessing superpowers that are seemingly beyond the real world. Superpowers would allow us to do things we do not normally see on an daily basis.
Thanks to modern scientific and engineering research, the superpowers of the superheroes may no longer be reserved for cinema. Humanity stands on the cusp of a superpower future with scientists and engineers working on some astounding research projects that could produce superpower technology as a viable spin-off. For example, thanks to advanced genetic editing techniques like the CRISPR/Cas system, in the future we could bioengineer some of the X-Men characters. A number of inventors and engineers are developing technologies to mimic a flying Iron Man suit while other researchers have turned to graphene or spider silk to create advanced bullet-proof materials. Thanks to these technological endeavours we may expect superpower technologies sooner rather than later.
Before superpowers can be introduced into society though we must ensure that laws, policies or protocols are put in place to safeguard society. We need to introduce these technologies in a safe manner and accurately assess their impact before their introduction. We must predict, to the best of our ability, the implications of superpowers or new technologies on society. In addition they should be introduced in a manner that facilitates both integration with society and easy adaptations. Undoubtedly there will be ethical hurdles on our path to superpowers and these should be met with the respect that they merit. Nonetheless cautious progressions could in many ways hinder the development of society, and as a result delay the superpower/superhero era.
Are you ready for a superpower future? Are you ready for the great power and great responsibility? Are you ready to unlock the Secrets of Superhero Science?
About the speakers
Barry W. Fitzgerald studied physics at the University of Limerick, Ireland. After completing a PhD, he moved to the Netherlands where he currently works as a researcher in Process and Energy department of the faculty 3mE at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft).Despite becoming a career physicist, Barry continues to dream about getting superpowers. Eventually he realized that his superpower dreams could become a reality thanks to the innovative scientific research of his colleagues around the world. He is the author of the book “Secrets of Superhero Science”.
Dan Hassler-Forest has a background in film and television studies and English literature. He worked for several years as a lecturer in Media Studies and English Literature at the University of Amsterdam, where he defended his dissertation on the ideological and ideological aspects of superhero films after 9/11. From 2011 until 2015, he worked as assistant professor in the English literature department at the University of Amsterdam, before moving to Utrecht University in 2015. He published the monograph Capitalist Superheroes and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Politics: Transmedia Wold-building Beyond Capitalism.
Linda Duits is a social scientist, specialized in popular culture. She writes columns for Folia and regularly publishes in print media such as Het Parool and NRC Handelsblad. Duits is affiliated with Utrecht University as gender studies researcher.
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