Marvel At The Wonders of Science


- The Big Bang Fair enables youngsters to see the incredible science behind their favourite superheroes to encourage more young people into science and engineering 

Superhero movies have never been more visually spectacular. Thanks to ever-improving CGI, stunts and special effects, the mind-boggling exploits that Black Panther and the other Avengers achieve on-screen look more realistic than ever.

Although amazing superhero feats may regularly defy the laws of physics, they are nevertheless an excellent way to get youngsters interested in STEM. What’s more, the ‘science of superheroes’ could even become an alternative way for schools, colleges and universities to deliver science education and demonstrate the application of scientific concepts.

That’s according to a new study from The Big Bang Fair which revealed UK youngsters would consider studying for a degree in a STEM subject if it used superhero science as part of the syllabus. Two thirds (65%) of 7 - 19 years olds even said they would apply for a specialist BSc (Hons) degree in ‘Superhero Physics’ if a university ever added such a course to its prospectus.

As part of the project, The Big Bang Fair has worked with Aston University to illustrate how a study of superhero science would effectively cover elements already taught by the university as part of its existing science and engineering degree syllabuses and modules.

For example, understanding Superman’s super-strength, or the tensile strength of Spider-Man’s webs would draw on content from its Chemical and Mechanical Engineering programmes.

Electrical Engineering theory would help explain the complex intricacies of Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, while Biomedical Engineering, or a degree in Computer Science, could reveal the inner-workings of J.A.R.V.I.S.

To further illustrate the science behind superhero suits and set-pieces, The Big Bang Fair and Aston University have also deconstructed the physics, maths and engineering behind a number of iconic scenes from recent Marvel and DC blockbusters, and illustrated these in easily-digestible ways for youngsters.

One example is from the recent Wonder Woman film in which, using an impulse-momentum method, it is worked out that Diana Prince would need the leg-strength equivalent to that of 100 Olympic high jumpers to propel herself to the height of a church steeple and still have enough momentum to destroy it.

There’s also a breakdown of the complex nuclear physics at work in Iron Man’s suit, which show that for his Reactor Rays to have the capacity to melt through steel plates they would, in effect, need to be supplied with as much as two gigawatts of power – enough to provide electricity to two million homes for two hours in everyday terms.

Elsewhere there’s an analysis of the total tensile forces at work in a scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming in which Spider-Man prevents a ship from splitting in two. The calculations suggest that Peter Parker would need the combined strength of 100,000 strongmen to pull two halves of the container vessel together.

Other examples that have been broken down as part of the project include an assessment of the crushing power required for Hela to destroy Thor’s hammer in Thor: Ragnorak – equivalent to the force exerted by a whopping 10 billion car-crushers – and assessing the power contained in Hulk’s punch, which is deemed to be equal to that of 10,000 heavyweight boxing champions.


An overview of the scenes that were broken down are as follows:


Scene 1: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Balance of Forces formula is used as the basis for working out the strength required from Spider-Man to prevent a shipping container from splitting in two.

Balance of Forces Spidey


Scene 2: Thor: Ragnorak (2017)

Conservation of momentum theory used as the basis for working out the force contained in a single Hulk punch as he battles with Thor.

Conservation of momentum theory - Thor & Hulk

Scene 3: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Laplacian theory used as the starting point for communicating the amount of nuclear power needed to power Iron Man’s suit.

Laplacian theory - Iron Man

Scene 4: Wonder Woman (2017)

Impulse-Momentum Method employed as a means of working out the power in Wonder Woman’s jump.

Impulse-Momentum Wonder Woman

Scene Five: Thor: Ragnorak (2017)

Competitive stress equation used to work out the amount of pressure required for Hela to destroy Thor’s hammer with one hand.

Competitive stress equation Hela

The research team from Aston University was led by Dr Sotos Generalis, a senior academic at the university who specialises in fluid dynamics and turbulence.

Dr Generalis commented: “I’m a big believer at finding new ways of getting younger generations excited about the world of STEM and I see superhero films as a providing a great vehicle for doing just that. However unlikely it may seem, these Hollywood blockbusters in fact boast a rich tapestry of fascinating scientific processes that can not only provide a useful entry-point for young people to grow their sense of wonder and interest in the subject, but equally as a means of helping understand more complex areas of the field that are effectively already taught at universities all over the UK.

With that in mind, it would be beneficial to use these films as a vehicle for engaging students in STEM and for attracting them to study the science behind them.”

Beth Elgood, Director of Communications at EngineeringUK, who organise The Big Bang Fair, said: “Superhero blockbusters are hugely popular at the moment and we saw a great opportunity to draw on that popularity as a way of inspiring the next generation to take up an interest in STEM. Our work with Aston University aims to do just that – highlighting the science behind superheroes’ feats and illustrating what it would take for these fanciful stunts to be achievable in the real-world.

“In its tenth year, The Big Bang Fair continues to be a great source of STEM inspiration for young people. It’s an amazing opportunity for young visitors, their teachers and parents to get hands-on with a wide range of activities, shows and workshops and to talk to the real-life scientists and engineers, who, while they may not have superhero powers, work in a huge range of jobs making a positive difference to the world around us.”

The project has been carried out to mark the launch of this year’s The Big Bang Fair, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham this week between 14th and 17th March. Here, young visitors will also have the opportunity to see how their strength matches up against the likes of Thor, Hulk and Wonder Woman on the ‘Are You Stronger Than A Superhero?’ boxing-machine experience. For more information visit 

Research conducted by Markettiers on behalf of The Big Bang Fair. 1,000 people aged 7-19 were surveyed.





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