What if you could have the power to be invisible, or to fly? Or what if you could shrink yourself or transform in a glorifying beast? That’s exactly what Barry Fitzgerald, superhero scientist (what? yes superhero scientist) asked himself. At Imagine Film Festival 2019 he’ll discuss which superhero powers are actually attainable by todays science. Curious? We’ve asked him some questions to have a little sneak peek.
I’ve seen Avengers: Infinity War more than 30 times, which might seem a little excessive to some. Watching the films and TV series over and over again allows me to analyse scenes, find the subtle small details that are important, and get new ideas for research and my talks.
Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what it is that you do?
So my name is Barry Fitzgerald, I’m Irish, and I’m a research scientist. I’ve worked in many different areas of science such as writing computer models to study polymers (the material in car tyres for example), biomass particles (which could be used to make biofuels for a car or an aeroplane), and fluid motion. In addition, I’m also interested in responsible innovation with technology and innovative new approaches in science education. Over the last three years though, I’ve been doing a lot of research on superheroes and the science behind their superpowers. I watch the superhero films and TV series a lot. For instance, I’ve seen Avengers: Infinity War more than 30 times, which might seem a little excessive to some. Watching the films and TV series over and over again allows me to analyse scenes, find the subtle small details that are important, and get new ideas for research and my talks. Some have called me a “superhero scientist”, which is a pretty cool title. Doing research on superheroes is so cool and I love being able to combine my passion for science with my passion for the superhero genre.
What will you be telling us about during Imagine?
This year is a big year for superhero films, particularly in terms of the films that will be released close to the Imagine Film Festival. Captain Marvel, Shazam, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Hellboy, and the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame in the first half of 2019. For my talk at the Imagine Film Festival, I’ll be delving into the science behind the superpowers of some of the characters that will appear in these films. Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Colossus, Spider-Man, and many other characters will be discussed. I’ll also discuss how superpowers could be safely and responsibly introduced into society, and I promise some very cool science surprises along the way!
Unfortunately, I still can’t fly like Superman. But I’ve not given up hope!
When and where did your fascination with superheroes start?
When I was 5 or 6 years old, I remember seeing the 1978 Superman film for the first time on TV. Upon seeing Superman flying through the streets of Metropolis, my priorities in life changed there and then. From then, the subject of superheroes enthralled me. I wanted superpowers, and I wanted them as fast as possible. Unfortunately, I still can’t fly like Superman. But I’ve not given up hope! I’ll never claim that I was the biggest reader of comic books when I was younger. But I do remember having one or two Wolverine comic books and also a Wolverine action figure. I also watched plenty of cartoon series. The post iconic for me was the X-Men: Animated series, which first aired in the early 1990s. This series introduced a lot of the X-Men, many of whom would go on to appear in the films. In recent years, I’ve been reading a lot of comic books, given that many of the stories in the films are based on earlier storylines from the comic books.
Who is your favourite superhero and why?
This is such a hard question to answer because my favourite superhero is constantly changing. When I was growing up, Wolverine was most certainly my favourite superhero for many reasons such as the cool retractable claws, his accelerated healing powers, and his attitude of not entertaining fools. Nowadays, my favourite superhero changes based on the characters that I research. In 2018, I wrote two separate scientific papers on two of my favourite characters – Hawkeye and Colossus. In my book “Secrets of Superhero Science”, I also have chapters on these two characters. So you can definitely say that they are now among my favourite superheroes. But I also have great time for Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, and the Wasp. Again, such a hard question to answer!
Which superpower would you like to have most and why?
Again this is such a difficult question to answer! There are too many powers that I’d like to have. I’d definitely like to have Wolverine or Deadpool’s superpower of accelerated healing. It would be very cool to recover from any injury instantaneously. I’d love to be able to fly like Captain Marvel or Superman just so I don’t have to go through all the long queues at airports. I’d also like to have an Iron Man suit. And perhaps to shrink like Ant-Man or the Wasp. I’d take any one of these powers. Perhaps my research can help get at least one of them!
However, my real superpower will always remain a closely guarded secret!
Barry Fitzgeralds talk is part of the theme program ‘Things to come’, visit his talk at Imagine Film Festival 2019! More information about his talk here.