A big week for Superman and science

I’ve loved Superman ever since the first moment my little eyes saw Christopher Reeve rocket into action in the red, gold and blue. (“You’ve got me? Who’s got you?”)

Christopher Reeve as Superman

Not Christopher Reeve

As you know, Superman was sent to Earth from the dying planet of Krypton by his scientist father, Jor-El, who knew that Krypton was doomed but couldn’t get the ruling council to listen to his wisdom. Under Krypton’s red sun, little Kal-El would have grown up as normally as we do. But because of our yellow sun, his body became a solar battery that stored the yellow solar radiation in such a way that it gave him whiz-bang powers. His only weakness is Kryptonite, a radioactive mineral that was scattered throughout space when Krypton exploded. Much of it found its way to Earth and has been used against him time and again by his enemies.

Superman’s first comic book appearance happened in the pages of Action Comics in 1938, when such notions were the stuff of fantasy.

Until now.

According to this article, an international team of astronomers — including one from right here in Indiana! — has found what they think is an Earth-sized planet orbiting a red sun 20.5 light-years away (in the Libra constellation).

Particularly of interest is the astronomers’ belief that the planet shares enough similarities with our own little interstellar spinner that it could likely support life. The article is brimming with lots of really cool quotes and explanations. Check it out.

As this was happening, geologists in Siberia were busy discovering Kryptonite. The new mineral — which has been named Jadarite and is currently on display at the Natural History Museum in London — shares the same chemical makeup as the piece of Kryptonite stolen by Lex Luthor from a Metropolis museum in Superman Returns.

The real sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide, however, is not a radioactive green space rock but rather a harmless, white powdery substance. Which means that in addition to not knowing anything about Superman, the writers of Superman Returns are also big dummies when it comes to science.

I’m not surprised.

I’m no science whiz myself, but I find this kind of thing fascinating. (I love days when you can look up at a clear blue sky and see the moon. To think that we’re just a small little cog in an infinite cosmic engine is so humbling and exciting.) I’m such a Mulder at heart, and it’s good to know that we’re constantly discovering things that once would never have been thought possible.

I’ll leave you with some wise words from another of my heroes, Jack Burton, played by Mr. Kurt Russell in the 6.9-on-the-Richter-scale classic, Big Trouble in Little China: “Now I’m not saying that I’ve been everywhere and I’ve done everything, but I do know it’s a pretty amazing planet we live on, and a man would have to be some kind of fool to think we’re alone in this universe!”

Amen, brother.

Keep your eyes on the skies.