UVic neurobiologist explores the science of superheroes

Is it really scientifically possible to train to become Batman?  Can an anthropomorphic robotic suit be made to create Iron Man?  These are questions that have fascinated E. Paul Zehr and have guided his passion for research and popular writing.  Dr. Zehr is a professor, author, and martial artist at the University of Victoria and his innovative work as head of the Rehabilitation Neuroscience Laboratory has focused on the recovery of walking after stroke and spinal cord injury and includes over 100 scientific publications.Inventing Iron Man photo cropped

Dr. Zehr will present a public talk entitled “Is there a superhero in you?” as part of the Science in Society Speaker Series, on Saturday, February 15 at 3:30 pm at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus main lecture theatre. This talk is an official Vernon Winter Carnival event:  Carnival of Superheroes.

Comic book superhero movies and TV shows are extremely popular and Batman and Iron Man can be used as vehicles for popularizing neuroscience and kinesiology. In this talk, Dr. Zehr will use Batman and Iron Man to explore many scientific concepts including: brain adaptations to skill training and motor learning; the biomechanics of martial arts training and combat; pathophysiology of concussion; neural plasticity associated with injury and training; brain remapping and phantom limbs; and the concepts of neuroprosthetics and  brain-machine interfaces.

Zehr is passionate about the popularization of science using superheroes as foils for human achievement and ability. His recent pop-sci books include Becoming Batman: The possibility of a superhero (2008) and Inventing Iron Man: The possibility of a human machine (2011). Paul’s current book Project Batgirl – The diary of a teen superhero will be published in 2014. Paul is a regular speaker at conferences and comic book conventions including San-Diego International Comic Con and New York Comic Con and has presented to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on the science of superheroes. Paul won the 2012 Craigdarroch Award for Research Communications at the University of Victoria and has been featured on radio and television interviews around the world including NPR and CNN in the USA, CBC Radio’s National Science Show “Quirks and Quarks”, CTV’s “Canada AM”, CBC TV’s “The National”, and CITY TV “Breakfast Television”. In addition to articles and interviews on exercise, science and superheroes in Flipside: The Science, Engineering, and Technology Magazine for Teenagers, Scientific American, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Maxim, Popular Mechanics, Discover and Macleans magazines, Zehr also blogs at Psychology Today and Scientific American.

The Science in Society Speaker Series (a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and Okanagan College) is sponsored by Pacific Inn and Suites, Cooper’s Foods, Starbucks Coffee, and Vernon Morning Star.

Admission is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644 or visit their website: http://www.okscience.ca .  To subscribe to or obtain more information about the series go to https://okanagansisss.wordpress.com .

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