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At The Conversation, my job will be to make the best thinking from Australia's 40 univerisites accessible to the widest possible audience. That means you. From the new year I will also write a weekly column.

On this site are most of the important things I have written for Fairfax and the ABC over the past few decades. I recommend the Search function. The site is a record for you, as well as me.

I'll continue to post great things from The Conversation and other places here, and also on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Towards a unified theory (of Superman's powers)

The better-known quest for a unified theory in physics is outlined brilliantly here by Professor Richard Healey of the University of Arizona is a talk to the LSE entitled A World without Particles or Forces

The MP3 is here, it last lasts 80 minutes and is great gardening listening.

I was struck by the parallels with the quest for a unified theory in economics outlined by Paul Kruguman in the talk I mentioned here.

And by this - the quest for A Unified Theory of Superman's Powers. Apparently stand-alone theories in this field have problems too:

Since Time immemorial, man has sought to explain the powers of Kal-
El, a.k.a. Superman. Siegel et al. Supposed that His mighty strength
stems from His origin on another planet whose density and as a result,
gravity, was much higher than our own. Natural selection on the planet
of krypton would therefore endow Kal El with more e cient muscles and
higher bone density; explaining, to rst order, Superman's extraordinary
powers. Though concise, this theory has proved inaccurate. It is now clear
that Superman is actually ying rather than just jumping really high; and
His freeze-breath, x-ray vision, and heat vision also have no account in
Seigel's theory.

In this paper we propose a new uni ed theory for the source of Su-
perman's powers; that is to say, all of Superman's extraordinary powers
are manifestation of one supernatural ability, rather than a host. It is
our opinion that all of Superman's recognized powers can be uni ed if His
power is the ability to manipulate, from atomic to kilometer length scales,
the inertia of His own and any matter with which He is in contact.

Bravo Ben Tippett, HT: Megan McArdle


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