Charity and Planet Hunting

Regardless of how much recovery I require from last night’s election festivities, there is still a column to be done! Today I wanted bring your attention to two things, one charitable and one scientific-ish. Hopefully you’re all already aware of the Hero Initiative; it’s a pretty awesome charity that helps out creators who may have gotten a raw deal when they were creating work for a company. It often shocks me to hear how many hard-working creators now have to struggle just to get by, and are in dire straits if anything goes wrong with their health or home. Fortunately, the Hero Initiative is there to help them out.

This is what Chris actually looks like, but if you meet him, try not to stare.

Hopefully, you’re also already aware of Monekybrain Comics, the independent digital label started by Chris and Allison Roberson earlier this year. They’ve been cranking out books like clockwork since July, so there’s already a heft catalog of titles to choose from. Furthermore, Chris and Allison have decided that all profits made during the month of November will be donated to the Hero Initiative. They’ll still be paying the creators their share (otherwise the irony might cause their bank account to implode) but all the money they would retain as publishers is going to those in need. Chris wrote a far more in-depth and informative letter on the Monkeybrain website if you were hoping for more details.

Maybe you’ve been keeping up with all of Monkeybrain’s offerings since the start, or maybe you’d thought about buying a book or two but hadn’t pulled the trigger, now might as well be the time to check them out. If you hate the book? Oh well, you’ve just helped out an older creator in need.

Without trying to sound like too much a shill, I think this is awesome. I know how hard Chris and Allison worked to get Monkeybrain up and running, and I know how strongly they hold their principals concerning creator’s rights, so I think it’s pretty special that they’re doing this for others for an entire month.

But let’s talk comics for a moment, there’s Action Cats, which is all ages, there’s Aesop’s Ark, which is gorgeous and also has animals, there’s Edison Rex, which is very intelligent super hero fun, and much much more. I wouldn’t be pushing product like this if I a) didn’t actually enjoy it myself, and b) know that the money was going to a higher purpose. So I will now step off my social soapbox and step upon my conviently adjacent science soapbox.

Today, in Action Comics #14, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is announcing the location of Rao, the star around which the planet Kryton orbits. I’ve actually written about how Jor-El might have found Earth, but I honestly didn’t think about flipping it the other way around. If you haven’t been paying attention since 1940, this is the planet of Superman’s origin, and was destroyed when he was only a baby. And if you don’t know who Dr. Tyson is, he’s the director of the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He’s kind of this generation’s Carl Sagan, and he’s on the Daily Show / Colbert Report quite often.

Time to roll up our sleeves and find a planet!

While I haven’t read the comic yet, I do have some info on the star itself. LHS 2520 is a red dwarf in the constellation Corvus about 27.1 light years from earth. A red dwarf means it’s actually smaller and colder than our own sun, which I find a bit strange. I always thought, and this may even be canon, that Rao was a red giant, not a red dwarf, but maybe Krypton was just in a much closer orbit so it looked bigger. Without frames of reference, size in space is a tricky thing to perceive. The coolness might also explain why so much of Krypton seems frozen, as well as the reliance on crystals for so much of their technology.

The distance is also worth noting. 27.1 light years is pretty close when considering stellar distances. For those furrowing their brows, a light year is the distance a photo moving at 300,000,000 meters per second travels in one year. So it’s actually a measure of distance, not time. (Parsec is also a measure of distance if anyone was hoping to figure out what Han meant when bragging about the Kessel Run.) All that being said, travelling near the speed of light means Kal-El should have been around 30 by the time he crashed down in Kansas. There are lots of different explanations for this. There’s the idea that he was in some sort of suspended animation, or that the rocket was also a womb, so he wasn’t actually born until crash landing, or maybe he just jumped through a wormhole. I don’t like that last one because I think the imagery of a baby in a rocket shooting through space is too good to give up with a wormhole, but it might be the most reasonable.

Finally, I’m perplexed why a star was chosen that doesn’t have any planets. I know Krypton was destroyed but were their no other planets in that star system? Research suggests that you actually need larger outer planets if smaller planets closer to the sun could be capable of supporting life. The large planets act like shields, pulling in comets and asteroids preventing the smaller planet from being constantly bombarded by deadly space rocks. It’s a minor pet peeve, to be sure, but it wasn’t beneath my notice.

Part of me actually feels that showing the exact sport of Superman’s origins is akin to revealing the identity of Joe Chill, the thug who shot Thomas and Martha Wayne. At the same time, how could I not be excited to see science openly promoted in the pages of a comic? Mixed feelings abound.

So this week when getting your comics you can help promote charity and promote science. I’d suggest both, but I’m a multi-tasker like that. ______________________________________________________________________________ Ryan Haupt has talked to both Chris Roberson and Neil deGrasse Tyson on Skype. Find out which conversation gets broadcasted on the podcast Science… sort of.

Comments

  1. RaBoogie RaBoogie says:

    1) Monkeybrain is fantastic for comics, and I have huge respect for Chris Roberson for putting his money where his mouth is, time and time again.

    2) If Kryptonians were an advanced race, is it possible that they developed vessels that could outpace the speed of light?

    3) Great article!

  2. Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    My favorite explanation of how Superman remained a kid after traveling for years in outer space is the womb one that you mentioned. It meant that, technically, Kal-El wasn’t born under he crash landed in Kansas and was found by the Kents. This makes him American and meant that he could be president. I always liked that idea. It sort of diminishes his universal appeal, perhaps, but it worked for me.