Simanaitis Says

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MECHA-MAN, DOKTOR DARKNESS—AND YOU!

HERE’S YOUR chance to choose between Good and Evil—and to promote science along the way. Scientists at Britain’s University of Central Lancashire and a pair of professional comic book artists have teamed up to encourage legitimate science in the world of superheroes.

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The website www.herolab.co.uk seeks your creative input into its Hero Lab adventures. Deadline for the initial competition is February 28, 2014.

Their creations, Mecha-man and Doktor Darkness, are going to have crowd-sourced development, with other characters and themes firmly based in science, not limply sci-fi. Matt Dickinson is the guiding light and Science Advisor of Hero Lab. In real life, he’s a Lecturer in computer-aided engineering, with a research interest in racing engines, at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, in central England about 225 miles northwest of London.

In the science-fictional UCLAN Preston, Dickinson’s experiment with an energy exo-suit collides with another investigating anti-matter. The result is a Tech Wave and two superheroes, Mecha-man and Doktor Darkness.

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There’s trouble—and action—a’brewing at UCLAN Preston.

Mecha-man (who looks a lot like Matt in an exo-suit) uses his powers of manipulating technology to help humanity. Doktor Darkness (Matt’s anti-matter) is his adversary devising villainy reptiles and robots that are super strong and super tough.

Suggested concepts from the crowd-sourcing have included psychic surfboards, cyborg laser eyes and villain-capturing twirly hair. All in the worthy effort of promoting interest in science and engineering in the world of superheroes.

A similar fostering of legitimate science is shared by Larry Niven, at 75 probably the foremost American author of science fiction. Niven’s novels are known for using firm concepts of theoretical physics in hard science fiction, very much what Dickinson and his colleagues are attempting in the comics format.

Niven’s novel Ringworld, 1970, won the Nebula Award, Hugo Award and Locus Award. The book has three subsequent sequels and four prequels and is part of Niven’s Known Space series.

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Larry Niven wrote Ringworld, 1970, The Mote in God’s Eye, 1974, and many other sci-fi novels. Image from www.mystgalaxy.com.

Among his contributions have been Niven’s Laws, truisms attempting to describe his world view:

• Never fire a laser into a mirror.

• It is easier to destroy than to create.

• Giving up freedom for security is beginning to look naïve.

• There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.

• Old age is not for sissies.

Niven is also recognized for an off-beat scientific analysis of Superman and Lois Lane in his classic “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex,” (http://goo.gl/hc1Klf). It begins “He’s faster than a speed bullet. He’s more powerful than a locomotive. He’s able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Why can’t he get a girl?”

It’s sci-fi for rather a different audience from Hero Lab’s, but legitimate and entertaining nonetheless. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014

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