Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Vampire Physics

Got an undead enemy to deal with? Break out the garlic, the stakes, and your scientific calculator.

Battling vampires, werewolves, or skin-eating demons is as much about physics as the occult, according to the fascinating new (nonfiction!) book The Physics of the Buffyverse, by Jennifer Ouellette.

The book is about the physics concepts illustrated in various episodes of the cult TV hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'm not the world's biggest Buffy fan, although I've seen and enjoyed an episode or two. But even with my relative lack of in-depth Buffy knowledge, I enjoyed reading the Buffyverse book thanks primarily to Ouellette's sketches of the show's scenes and plots to put it all in context, as well as her ability to creatively speculate on ways that a Buffyverse physicist might explain it all.

One of the most fascinating things about the book (beside the fact that it covers physics - which is just about my favorite topic) is that Ouellette makes it clear that the writers of the Buffy TV show worked hard to ensure that all the magic and occult at the center of the program's episodes followed consistent rules. Many of those rules are similar to the ones we deal with in real life science. Basically, it's physics with a twist.

So, what's the point in that? Well, have you ever thought to yourself "I wonder what the deal is with string theory?" or "What's so weird about quantum weirdness anyway?" If so, you could always buy some dried up physics tome to figure it all out. Personally, I think it's more fun to learn about physics by following Buffy and the Scoobies on their adventures. Sure the physics is twisted but don't worry, Ouellette does a great job of telling you where the twists are, as well as how things would work in the real world of untwisted physics.

It's a fun read, whether you're a Buffy fan or not. And in the end, if you're not careful, you might learn a thing or two about physics.

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