Science Stranger Than Comic Books

Loraine Lawson

There are lots of emerging tech stories I could tell you about today. There's the supercomputer being used to simulate a mouse brain. IBM's plans for a microchip primordial soup. The frightening warning that wireless technology might be bad for children. And, of course, the "Island of Doctor Moreau"-esque announcement that scientists want to know how we feel about creating animal/human hybrid embryos.

 

"I, for one, welcome our weresheep overlords," my husband responded.

 

But it's Monday morning and the sun's shining. So, after perusing that frightening list of headlines, I decided to check out of Bizzaro World and check into Comic Book World, where Kryptonite does exist and I'll soon be able to wear my own Spidey suit.

 

First, the bad news for Superman: Kryptonite has been discovered in a Serbian mine. I kid you not. Researchers found the white, lumpy mineral and realized it was something unclassified. As they pried into its chemical makeup, they realized it actually had been classified -- in the Superman annals.

 

The new mineral is sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide, which is the formula used to label Kryptonite in Superman Returns. There is one difference -- there's no fluorine, which the Kryptonite does contain in the film. It's also white, not green, but it does kinda glow pinkish-orange under florescent light. Oh, and, it's harmless -- but then again, it hasn't been tested on a real man of steel, has it now?


 

Alas, under scientific naming rules, it can't be called kryptonite because it's not related to krypton. Instead, it's official name will be jadarite.

 

So bad news for Jerry Seinfield. But there's good news for Tobey Maguire.

 

A professor of structural engineering is working on the formulas and theories that would make it possible to build a real Spider-man suit -- complete with Web slinging capabilities.

 

Nicola Pugno, who works at Polytechnic University in Turin, Italy, has researched carbon nanotubes for years. He believes they could be used to create superadhesive gloves and boots, though in this article, he seems to be talking more about space usage than highrise climbing. He also contends carbon nanotubes could be used to create large, invisible cables.

 

He has, however, ruled out carbon nanotubes for space elevators. Oh well. We can't have everything, I suppose.

 

And if I have to choose between space elevators, half a mouse brain or Spider-man -- well, my vote's for the Web slinger every time.



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