Maggie speaking in St. Paul with superhero physicist, Jim Kakalios

Tomorrow night, I'll be joining University of Minnesota physics professor Jim Kakalios for Beaker & Brush — a series of discussions between scientists and artists/writers sponsored by The Science Museum of Minnesota. Kakalios is the author of The Physics of Superheroes and The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics. Together, we'll be talking about the way both physics and society have shaped American energy use and electric infrastructure. Energy is a socio-technical system. To understand where it came from and where it's going, you have to look at both science and culture. The event starts at 6:30 pm at Amsterdam Bar and Hall in downtown St. Paul.

How physicist Jim Kakalios invented a math equation for the new Spider-Man movie

Scientific advising for science-fiction films is a really fascinating topic for me. It's a weird, weird world, where the goal is not necessarily extreme accuracy, but extreme believability. That can be a stress point for science, a field that is, generally, all about striving for accuracy. The scientists that help directors create believable worlds have to balance the goal of educating the public with the goal of entertaining same. That can be tough, and it leads some creative solutions—and little educational Easter Eggs buried in the background of blockbusters.

Take the work University of Minnesota physicist Jim Kakalios recently did for the new Spider-Man reboot. The film's creators asked him to invent a complicated-looking equation that, in the context of the story, would relate to cell regeneration and human mortality.

How do you invent a fictional equation? Start with a real one.

In this video, Kakalios explains where his imaginary equation came from, starting with the Gompertz Equation, a very real function that describes mortality rates and can be used to model tumor growth.

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