Introducing Daredevil Science Week!

May 7, 2010

Introducing Daredevil Science Week!

May 7, 2010

As you may have noticed, since January I’ve gone from posting ten to twelve times a month to around eight. There are a few different reasons for this, the most important being that I simply have less time to blog right now due to boring grown-up demands. Since February I also contribute regularly to The Weekly Crisis which takes its share of my time even though my involvement there is limited to a leisurely three posts a month.

After nearly 350 posts, it is also becoming increasingly difficult to find new things to write about. I don’t think there is any risk that I’ll ever run out of new material, but I find myself having to stretch my imagination to find new angles and enough inspiration to take the time that goes into writing one of my longer, more in-depth posts. So, to get my spark back and kick the feeling of blogging as an occasional chore to the curb, I decided to do something incredibly self-indulgent and devote a brief series of posts to my favorite guilty/geeky pleasure: Daredevil science.

Panels from Daredevil #164, by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller

Panels from Daredevil #164, by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller

To the relatively many of you who’ve been with me from the early days, it probably comes as no surprise that I like to philosophize about the ins and outs of Daredevil’s senses. I studied science in college (I have a Master’s Degree in Biotechnology Engineering), and have always had a special interest in neuroscience. While I was a student, long before Matt Murdock and I got acquainted, I even wrote an essay on the subject of sensory compensation, i.e. the changes in perception and neural organization that happens in someone who has lost a sense.

Because of my curiosity about this and other related areas, it’s no wonder that I enjoy Daredevil’s fictional exploits, not only for the action and the drama, but also because the character can easily be viewed as something of a neurological thought experiment.

Contemplating what it’s like to be able to shoot laser beams from your eyes or even being able to teleport yourself from one place to another is simply not as interesting as trying to – quite literally – get into Daredevil’s head. The concept of a blind character with heightened remaining senses is sufficiently down to Earth to allow some kind of scientifically viable analysis while at the same time being exotic enough to stir the imagination and make you ask: “If this were possible, what would it allow you to do, and how would you perceive the world?”

In the few days remaining until Antony Johnston’s first Daredevil solo effort Daredevil: Cage Match hits the stands next week, I’m going to go into full geek mode and put that science degree to work – and have fun doing it. Here’s what the schedule will look like:

  1. First off, we’ll take a look at what the Marvel Universe Handbook has to say on the subject, and what I have to say on the subject of the Marvel Universe Handbook, or rather its questionable grasp of normal human anatomy. The MUH stats always tend to spread to places like Wikipedia and other resources, though they don’t necessarily seem to carry much weight in the eyes of the writers of the comics themselves.

  2. The second post will be a sort of straight op/ed piece on why I believe the radar as its own separate entity could be, or even should be, abandoned in favor of passive echolocation. Based on what I’ve learned about how human echolocation actually works, I’ll do my best to argue convincingly that the combination of superhearing (particularly in the lower frequencies) and the natural human ability for object detection, as demonstrated by blind and blindfolded people alike, are sufficient to explain how someone like Daredevil might operate.

  3. Last, but not least, we’ll take a look at Daredevil’s most plausible abilities, as well as those who don’t pass the laws of physics test. I’ve already taken a stab at the ability to hear heartbeats – something superhearing actually would allow – but here we’ll take a brief look at the rest.

Like I said, this is in some ways a bit self-indulgent because these kinds of questions do stir my imagination, as well as speak to my constant desire to figure out how things work, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, I’ve known from all the interactions I’ve had over the years with you guys, through comments and email, that I’m not the only one who gets a kick out of this. So, I hope you’ll enjoy this series and do take the time to add your comments and ask any questions you’ve thought about, and we’ll see if we can’t get to those too.

Oh, and before I go, was I the only one who noticed the new wording in the intro section of Daredevil: Cage Match in the preview? Emphasis mine and included because of its relevance to item #2 on the list. I’ll leave you to contemplate whether this is a return to the Bendis era interpretation… 😉

“As a boy, Matt Murdock saved an old man from a runaway truck that carried radioactive materials – but was left blind in the process. He found, however, that the same radioactive materials enhanced his senses to superhuman rates, giving him a sort of radar sense. He went on to study both martial arts and the law, becoming a crusading attorney by day – and a crimefighter by night.”


  1. Andrew

    I love this sort of thing as well, and I’m looking forward to your thoughts given your academic background. I have to say however that as a kid I always liked the “radar sense” as a unique ability not dependant upon his other senses. It’s relatively unique as a power among mainstream superheroes. The possible explanation of it as being a culmination of his other enhanced senses and how that may be used to illustrate how DD perceives the world around him is also unique and interesting. I suppose I should reserve further comment until later though. x]

  2. Polter-Cow

    I love your wacky science posts and also look forward to more posts about the science of Daredevil. Self-indulgent? Puh!

  3. Christine

    Thanks for the support guys! 🙂

    @Andrew: When I started out reading Daredevil I would always think of the radar as its own separate sense as well, not only because that’s how it was originally defined, but because it seemed like something like echolocation wouldn’t be enough, particularly if we’re not talking active sonar like a bat has.

    Since then, I’ve read whatever I could find on human echolocation and figured out that it really could work incredibly well for someone with dramatically enhanced hearing. Not only that, it also explains many of the things Matt actually does with it, as well as some of his vulnerabilities. It’s a model that fits much better than the idea that he shoots electromagnetic energy through his skull. I also like that it’s a more elegant and natural explanation which feels more realistic. But I’ll get back to the details when I write up the post.


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