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April 5, 2006

'Science of Superheroes'


Good news, bad news: the good news is you can take this course for college credit.

The bad news is that the only place you can do so is at the University of California, Irvine, where Professor Michael Dennin's seminar analyzes comic book superpowers.

Dennin is pictured below with his course's textbook, "The Science of Superheroes," by Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg ($15.72 at Amazon).


Here's Roy Rivenburg's Los Angeles Times story, as featured today in the online Seattle Times.

    Studying Super Subject Matter

    Could an overdose of gamma rays really transform someone into the Incredible Hulk?

    Was Superman defying Einstein's theory of relativity when he flew faster than the speed of light?

    While other science classes at the University of California, Irvine, dissect sharks or explore plasma physics, Michael Dennin's seminar analyzes comic-book superpowers.

    In recent weeks, students in his "Science of Superheroes" course have investigated Batman's utility belt, pondered gravity on the planet Krypton and designed their own superpower concepts using existing or envisioned technology.

    The 10-week class is part of a UC program to expose freshmen to unfamiliar topics and majors.

    Dennin debuted the course in January as an expanded version of a "physics of Superman" lecture he had given to several campus groups.

    After one Man of Steel talk, somebody slipped him a copy of Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg's paperback, "The Science of Superheroes."

    It became the textbook for his new class.

    In lessons that cover Aquaman to X-Men, Dennin's 14 students learned to distinguish science fiction from science fact.

    Science fantasy: Gamma rays turned 98-pound weakling Bruce Banner into a raging green giant called the Incredible Hulk.

    Science reality: Intense gamma radiation would have killed Banner. However, Hulkification could be achieved with anabolic steroids and DNA from a jellyfish.

    Students also considered the feasibility of Superman and the Flash traveling faster than the speed of light.

    Most scientists say such a feat would violate the laws of physics.

    Others theorize that traveling faster than light could reverse time.

    Another lesson examined the gadgets on Bruce Wayne's bat belt, such as a miniature telephone and torch and knockout-gas capsules.

    Many of the devices that seemed farfetched when Batman was created decades ago are now available.

    Students also scrutinized Superman's home planet, Krypton.

    According to comic-book lore, gravity on Krypton was so much stronger than Earth's that Clark Kent had superhuman strength here.

    But in real life, gravity that strong would prevent a rocket from escaping a planet's atmosphere.

    Dennin, 39, a UCI physics professor, said the goal of the seminar is to use pop culture as a hook to introduce such concepts as black holes, cloning, life on other planets, quantum mechanics and Newtonian physics.

    "Many students have a fear of science," Dennin said, "but if they come at it from a different angle, they sometimes find out they're interested in the subject and take more classes."

    Dennin's class isn't the only freshman seminar with an eye-catching title.

    Other courses in UC-Irvine's program include "Heavy Metal Islam" from the history department, "Murder!" from the drama department, "TV, Culture and the Real O.C." from women's studies and "Antonio Banderas and His Hispanic Masculinities" from the Spanish department.


Those wishing to conduct their own studies at home on the subject of superheroes might consider waiting until this summer, then going to the post office where the long-awaited "Comic Book Superheroes" series of U.S. postage stamps (below)


will be on sale for 39¢ apiece.

April 5, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pruning Drop Cloth


Advanced technology in the garden.

I like it.

From the very finest horticultural engineers on the planet comes this not earthshaking but, rather, ground–protecting breakthrough.

Says the website:

    It's Like Taking Your Plants to a Barber

    Wrap the large 7 ft. x 7 ft. Pruning Drop Cloth around your outdoor shrubs or indoor plants to catch trimmings and eliminate messy cleanup.

    It's nearly impossible to pick up all the clippings that result from pruning your shrubs and plants.


    With the Pruning Drop Cloth you can protect your costly ground cover the same way your barber protects your clothing from your hair clippings.

    Makes cleanup a snap.

    Made of canvas.


Now, there are those of you out there — yes, you: I'm looking right at you, deep into your eyes like George Bush likes to do with Putin and all — who are saying to yourselves, just a flippin' minute.

I could do that with an old blanket or sheet or a piece of plastic.

You could — but that wouldn't be right.

Because the inventors of the Pruning Drop Cloth won't make a rupee or a renminbi if you go ahead and make your own instead of dropping your hard–earned money on their signature production.

The choice is yours, as the guy in the classic Fram oil filter commercial was wont to say: you can buy it here for $22.50 or you can make your own later.

I know what I'm gonna do.

Look in the mirror and see if you still like yourself.

I do — like you, I mean, and I don't even have access to your mirror.

April 5, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Treetent — Episode 2: You can now buy one for yourself


This just in.

My head crack team researcher/crack team head researcher Shawn Lea, doing what she does best (as if — but out of courtesy and deference we won't explore that space here today), looking into a request (below)



    I have been dreaming about treetents for a while now. 

    Are there treetents for sale?

    I must have one. 

    So cool.

    eli zhi

this past Monday from reader Eli Zhi, who wishes to purchase one of these remarkable creations (above) featured here on October 19, 2005, late last evening popped up in the inbox of Dré Wapenaar, who created the Treetent.

Not only did he graciously respond to Shawn early this morning but he also advised her that anyone with enough hard cash can purchase one for her or his very own backyard.

Contact Mr. Wapenaar at info@drewapenaar.nl to order yours.

I was quite amused, I must admit, when Shawn emailed me last evening that she had come across a reference to the Treetent, in the course of her research and due diligence, as a "bear piñata."

I like it too.

Below, Shawn's email correspondence on this matter; it can be instructive to see how the pros do it.

Not one word has been omitted.

    Hi, Eli,

    Mr. Waapenaar was kind enough to reply to our question.
    His response is below.
    The Treetents can be purchased directly through him.

    Shawn Lea
    official bookofjoe crackpot research team member

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: dré wapenaar < info@drewapenaar.nl>
    Date: Apr 5, 2006 2:23 AM
    Subject: Re: Treetents
    To: Shawn Lea

    dear Shawn,

    yes, many people want to purchase a treetent, and of course they can, with me.

    unfortunately the tents were never taken into mass production.

    (or better said: never designed for the idea of mass production).

    They have to be looked at from a sculptural perspective: there is a limited production, handmade, expensive, not meant for private purchase.


    dré wapenaar

    studio dre wapenaar
    vaandrigstraat 10
    3034 px rotterdam
    the netherlands

    T/F +31 10 2134346

    On 4 Apr 2006, at 22:51, Shawn Lea wrote:

    Dear Mr. Wapenaar,

    I am a staff member at www.bookofjoe.com.

    Joe wrote about your superb Treetent design a while back (http://www.bookofjoe.com/2005/10/treetent.html).

    Since then, we have received several questions from readers about if and where your
    Treetents are available for purchase.

    I know they are rented at the Hertshoom camping site, but I did not know if there are any for sale anywhere.

    Shawn Lea
    official bookofjoe crackpot research team member

    April 5, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

    Mango Wood Bowl


    What better place than this


    to keep your mango?

    From the website:

      Cultural anthropology

      Beautifully turned, eco-friendly mango wood.

      Engrained with character in a timeless ethnographic form.

      • Contemporary, organic design

      • Food–safe mango wood

      • Hand wash, dry promptly



    You'll be wanting OXO's nifty new mango splitter (below)


    if you're anything like me.

    When you're done with your mango the aliens


    will be wanting a word with you.

    The word, just so you know, will be — oh, you're SO smart, you already knew, didn't you? —



    April 5, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    The Dream Habitués — by Josephine Jacobsen

    Odd we've never met there,
    spending all that time.
    But then, it's a big country.

    Erratic too, as to lighting and climate.
    Will it be crowded,
    or the reverse? Tiresome, as to entry?

    Yet I keep going back. God knows how often,
    if I added it up. Which means
    I ought to know a fair–

    sized group. But the people move about so.
    And total strangers accost you,
    looking familiar.

    And the transportation!
    Take you off to see a ruin, or cave,
    and forget you. That's at its worst.

    Yes, I've had incidents
    curl the hair on my head.
    But then at its best

    how marvelous... I had a dance
    there once more like, well,
    swimming? Or flying? No. Nothing I'd learned.

    A couple of bad experiences.
    And one doesn't know,
    so to speak, which way to turn,

    But then that can happen—
    or something almost like it—
    in any city. The closest shave.

    And, if one wishes,
    one can always wake.
    Or, so far, I have.

    April 5, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Giant LED Clock


    Over 3 feet wide — you can't miss it.

    I measured out the digits as best I could: each is approximately 8 inches high x 5 inches wide.

    From the website:

      Big Ben LED Wall Clock

      See the time and date from over a city block away with our Big Ben LED Clock.

      Place our Big Ben LED Clock in any large room or even a stadium and you'll easily be able to see the correct time from any distance.

      And when we say big, we mean it.

      At over 3 feet long, the Big Ben Clock certainly lives up to its name.

      Its energy efficient large red LED lights (only few dollars a year in energy consumption) can easily be seen from any angle so you'll always know the proper time.

      It's perfect for any home, business, school or church or in corporate with a large number of employees who need to all be on the same time schedule.

      No more excuses for showing up late or leaving early.

      And it makes the perfect conversation piece.

      With the Big Ben LED Wall Clock, time is on your side.

      • Great for people hard of seeing.

      • AC adapter included

      • Cherry wood color.

      • 40" x 15" x 1.5".

      • Weighs 12 lbs.


    Hey, if you don't feel like dropping thousands on a plasma or LED flat screen TV this might a much cheaper and, in the end, equally entertaining device.


    April 5, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    BehindTheMedspeak: Got Sunburn? — A handheld UV meter with style


    Portable UV meters have been around since forever but up to now they've been far too industrial–looking for my fashionista readers.

    Finally, a breakthrough, in a very nice teal blue (above) from, of all places, a medical supply house.

    Who'd a thunk it?

    From the website:

      UV–Easy UV Meter

      The UV–Easy UV Meter is designed to measure the maximum UV intensity with its built–in UV sensor.

      By combining this reading with the SPF factor of your sun protection it can calculate the safest amount of time of sun exposure.

      When you've reached the limit of safe exposure, it emits a beeping alarm to let you know that it is time to apply more sunscreen.

      The UV-Easy UV Meter is one of the ways that you can keep you and your family protected from the harmful effects of over-exposure to sunlight while still enjoying all of it's benefits!


      • Easy 3–key operation

      • Time display for either 12 or 24 hours

      • Fahrenheit /Celsius temperature options

      • Comes with wrist strap, neck lanyard and belt clip

      • Warning alarm and symbol when sun exposure exceeds 100%

      • Non–slip textured handling surface

      • CR2032 lithium battery included

      • UV intensity display bar

      • Waterproof design


    Yes — it's thong–compliant.

    As if.


    April 5, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

    Passion's measure


    April 5, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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