Don’t Try To Be A Hero

The cover of Superman (vol. 1) #296 (February 1976). Art by Bob Oksner
The cover of Superman (vol. 1) #296 (February 1976). Art by Bob Oksner Wikimedia Commons


Memo to all scientists: stop. Stop joking with the world that you've discovered kryptonite, the green crystal undoer of Superman's powers. When Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum, discovered a new mineral--sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide--he googled it only to find that it had already turned up in the film "Superman Returns," as the museum label for the kryptonite Lex Luthor steals. His response: "We will have to be careful with it--we wouldn't want to deprive Earth of its most famous superhero!" (exclamation point courtesy of the fine people at Reuters).  This is not unlike--which is to say, totally too much like--Purdue University scientists who recently claimed technology that would enable a "Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak." Or the researchers at the University of Glasgow who said their studies into tree frogs would enlighten us about the secrets of Spider-Man's stickiness.

You know what? We get it. You work all day in a lab doing obscure work. You want to make it sound cool. You want to dazzle your kids and be more popular at the local elementary school's Career Day than the fireman, the doctor and the pro athlete. But there are people who don't care about silly things like coolness, and there are workers who would prefer not to confuse their research with fake physics from trippy comic books. There's even a name for these amazing people: grown-ups.

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