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The Physics of the Buffyverse Paperback – Bargain Price, December 26, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
There's science beneath the fantasy in the beloved television series about a teenage girl battling monsters in her California exurb, insists this lightweight pop-science primer. Science writer Ouellette (Black Bodies and Quantum Cats) hopscotches through the fictive world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel to rationalize their outlandish goings-on and mine heuristics that illustrate scientific principles. She compares exotic demons to real animals, draws lessons on Newtonian kinematics from Buffy's kickboxing, susses conservation laws in Buffy's economy of magic and compares Buffy's fight against evil to mankind's doomed struggle against entropy. Many Buffyverse plot devices (teleportation, time loops, alternate dimensions) lead Ouellette to advanced physics concepts (wormholes, relativity, quantum entanglement) that are equally weird and esoteric. Here, unfortunately, the author's sketchy disquisitions fall back on strained metaphors ("Just like the couplings... between the various characters in the Buffyverse, each iteration of string theory is connected to another through various dualities") and opaque analogies ("[i]t's best to think of imaginary time as a direction of time that runs at right angles to real time") that laymen will find as baffling as a runic scroll in a dead language. Too often, Ouellette's treatment comes across the way science does on Buffy—as a breezy, jargon-filled, unenlightening gloss on some fanciful spectacle. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Vampires and demons might be regarded as the stuff of fantasy writers' imaginations, but science writer Ouellette finds that real-world science can indeed be applied to the universe of the cult TV showsBuffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Despite the title--which owes a debt to the 1995 tome The Physics of Star Trek--Ouellette doesn't limit herself to physics; she also takes a look at the biological and chemical workings of the Buffyverse. Ouellette explains the ins and outs of vampire physiology, discusses why Buffy's fighting techniques are successful, and even delves into robotics and AI technology as seen on the show, and in our world. Not everything is scientifically sound--Ouellette argues against the possibility of telekinesis based on the amount of energy it would require--but she presents a strong case for many of the seemingly impossible aspects of the world Buffy and her friends inhabit. All the while, she makes the science accessible, guaranteeing that fans of the show will be receptive. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Second, the book. Oh my! Oh yes! The book is exactly what the title suggests, an intelligent, skeptical but ultimately supportive description of how the Science does, or at least could work in the Universe (capital U) of Buffy Summers' Sunnydale and (Bonus!) Angel's Los Angeles.
Author Jennifer Oulette writes brilliantly; she presents specific situations, conditions, actions and possible paradoxes of events in the "Buffy/Angel-verses" and then provides delightfully readable, engaging and comprehensible descriptions of the physics that may support the science of the fiction. Make no mistake, Oulette is not an apologist; she does not stretch the fabric of reality (pun intended) to accommodate the scripts. But she does a great job of writing to the contradictions, where they exist. And while she does so, she commits to her audience. Oulette is (probably) a fan. She is most certainly a physicist who respects BtVS' fans and importantly, the Mutant Enemy Production's writing team's efforts to provide more than a modicum of hard science to underpin their plot devices. The physics explained in "The Physics of the Buffyverse" will not satisfy every physics knowledgeable fan of the Buffy and Angel milieu, that is not the book's intent. The ambition behind "The Physics of the Buffyverse" is to simultaneously enhance the viewing experience while introducing legitimate physics to any discourse about the shows.
I'm a BtVS fan: Today, more than a decade after Buffy made the choice to save the world at the price of destroying Sunnydale, I still laugh, gasp, clap and cry when I re-watch the show. Among the many bookshelves in my home, I have two shelves dedicated to "Buff Stuff," books and materials that are "BtVS." Along with Rhonda Wilcox's "Why Buffy Matters," Jennifer Ouelette's non-fiction thesis form the spine of my collection. These two books, without pretense or hubris, suggest that Buffy Summers, the Vampire Slayer, is one of Western Literature's most original, authentic, evocative and provocative creations.
One negative comment about "The Physics of the Buffyverse," the cover only works if you're holding the book. The devil is in the details (again, pun intended). The big, red, demonic face looks like pulp fiction. The tiny diagrams in and around the face...represent.
Behind the fantastic properties of the vampires, demons, etc., there is actually a lot of good physics in the series. From electricity and the mechanics of martial arts to the Many World Interpretation of quantum mechanics, the writers of the series drew upon wide variety of concepts in physics. Ouellette neatly disentangles the real science from the fantastic elements, maintaining a witty style quite appropriate for the subject matter. It is absolutely non-technical--no math needed.
As pointed out early on, the Buffyverse follows some consistent physics (as opposed to the magical world of Harry Potter).
This allows the author to piece together many odd quantum concepts with great clarity (much comes from the spin-off show "Angel").
My understanding has made a quantum leap and my previous knowledge has gained coherence. Thank you.