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Physics of the Buffyverse    by Jennifer Ouellette order for
Physics of the Buffyverse
by Jennifer Ouellette
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The title seems a contradiction in terms, as the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is surely the antithesis of science. But, as Jennifer Ouellette reminds us - with examples from biology, chemistry and physics - 'science lurks everywhere in the Buffyverse.' And research - hitting the books to find out how to deal with the latest monster - is paramount in every episode. The author also emphasizes the role of the element of surprise - in Buffy's adventures, but equally in physics, where it's not uncommon to be 'blindsided by something unexpected that shatters our preconceptions.'

The book opens with an introduction to Sunnydale, continuing to talk about vampires in history and the hereditary disease, porphyria (which can cause sensitivity to sunlight and a reddish mouth). The author goes into vampires' nocturnal nature, camouflage, lack of reflection (discussed in context of the nature of light) and sound sensitivity (which they have in common with the cricket). With chapter headings like Conductivity Unbecoming and Alternate Reality Bites, Ouellette ranges widely to cover topics including natural selection and neurotoxins, cryogenic challenges, slime science, electromagnetism, telekinesis and ESP, robotics, shapechanging and conservation of mass, time looping, teleportation and telecloning, quantum invisibility, multiple dimensions and multiverses, and quite a variety of apocalyptic scenarios.

Any Buffy and/or Angel fan with a scientific bent will enjoy Jennifer Ouellette's take on popular science in Physics of the Buffyverse. Humans, however empowered, fighting a variety of monsters (and without stretching credibility beyond reason) provides an engagingly different context in which to examine science. My favorite section looks at the physics of martial arts, illustrated by black and white cartoon drawings. And in closing, the author speaks of physics as a 'nonstop intellectual adventure' whose challenges makes scientists 'every bit as heroic as Buffy or Angel, despite being largely unsung champions. They, too, desire to slay the dragon.' Hear, hear.

Listen to a podcast interview with the author at

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