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The Winter Soldier and Iron Man in TU Delft’s Open Access Journal Superhero Science and Technology. Delta TU Delft

In the same week as the worldwide release of Avengers: Infinity War, the latest Hollywood superhero film, the first papers and editorial have been published in the new superhero-themed online journal, set up by TU Delft researcher Barry W. Fitzgerald.

‘An icy cold chill runs down his back. Flashes of scattered memories rush his brain like shards of broken glass. His hearing sharpens, strange sounds and scents excite his senses while his eyes struggle to focus and scan over his all-too-familiar confinement capsule. A freezing sensation fills up his lungs, reminding him to take one last gasp of the air. That icy cold air he knows all too well.’

If you are fed up with reading boring science articles with complicated terminology, then Journal Superhero Science and Technology may be for you.

What you just read was the ‘prologue’ of one of the two very first articles published in this magazine a entitled ‘Marine Fish Antifreeze Proteins: the Key Towards Cryopreserving the Winter Soldier’. In this paper, researchers from TU Eindhoven describe how fish such as the ocean pout produce antifreeze proteins to lower the freezing point of their blood to survive in cold, icy waters. Maybe, the scientists infer with a surreptitious wink, the physiological trick that superhero Winter Soldier a.k.a. Buck Barnes - who is able to withstand the biological impairment of cryogenic freezing -  uses isn’t that far-fetched after all.

Marine fish in icy cold water

According to Romà Valls-Suris, Maja Mehmedbašić and Ilja Voets from TU Eindhoven, “the answer to the successful preservation of a real-life Bucky Barnes may have already been established in the natural world and can be specifically found in marine fish living in icy cold waters.”

The primary aim of the Superhero Science and Technology journal is to publish research in the fields of science, engineering, technology and ethics that is motivated by the superhero genre and written in a manner that it is accessible to the general public. Rather than presenting new scientific findings or experiments, the articles in this magazine give an overview of a certain field of research. The magazine is that sense comparable to popular science magazines, such as Scientific American.

“By connecting research to popular cultural elements from the superhero genre such as superheroes, supervillains, superpowers, scenes from films or comic book literature, researchers can engage the general public through a unique approach,” Barry W. Fitzgerald, superhero scientist and the editor-in-chief of TU Delft’s Open Access Journal Superhero Science and Technology says in his editorial that was published in conjunction with the first papers on the Winter Soldier and Iron Man.

‘We have an obligation to inform the general public in an accessible manner’

Fitzgerald: “Given that most researchers are reliant on the funding received from national and international organisations and that a large portion of this funding comes from public taxation systems, we, as active researchers, have an obligation to inform the general public in an accessible manner on the relevance and importance of our research to modern society and the evolution of our world.”

The papers in Superhero Science and Technology focus on two members of the Avengers - the Winter Soldier and Iron Man and his formidable iron suit.

3D Printing for Tony Stark and the Iron Man suit

“For decades we have used printers to print superheroes on the pages of comic books, but could printing technologies actually be used to print real life superheroes?” Or so Juha Niittynen and Jukka Pakkanen of Tampere University and Politecnico di Torino start their article ‘The importance of 3d and inkjet printing for Tony Stark and the iron man suit.

In their paper, they present various 3D and inkjet printing techniques that Tony Stark could use to repair his collection of Iron Man suits and even build new suits quickly. According to Niittynen and Pakkanen: “Printing methods for the production of both structural and functional parts is becoming an integral approach of not only the prototyping and design of parts, but in the establishment of new and sustainable manufacturing approaches.”

Read more about Barry Fitzgerald and his online magazine here

  • On Monday June 4th, 12:30-13:30, Barry Fitzgerald will be giving a lecture about his work using the subject of superheroes entitled ‘Outreach and Communication in Science using Superheroes’ Location: Room 1 F205 in the TNW building. 

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