Sunday, March 29, 2015

Batman Astronomy

I've been a fan of the 1960s Batman TV show since it first appeared when I was a wee, wee lad. I can't remember much about watching it back then other than the tremendous amount of excitement that I felt for the show.
Except for seeing the 1966 Batman movie, I've pretty much avoided the show as an adult, but now that the whole series is out on disc I'm watching it again.
With no superpowers, science and engineering were certainly important to Batman. Yes, the science and inventions were campy, but they were central to the story lines and Batman's ability to solve crimes. Even though science and engineering important to Gotham City's supervillains too, it was portrayed in a very positive way. I wonder how much of an influence the show had on me as a child in making science so important to me. Certainly, there were other influences too -- the space program, my supportive parents, Star Trek.
In my re-watch I was pleasantly surprised to find some astronomy in the show. Season One's Zelda the Great had Dick Grason and Bruce Wayne observing Saturn, giving us this exchange:
Dick: "Wow, the rings of Saturn. This is sure some fun, Bruce."

Bruce: "Astronomy is more than mere fun, Dick. . . It helps give us a sense of proportion. Reminds us how little we are really. People tend to forget that sometimes."
Indeed. Nicely said, Bruce.
Moments later they see the Batsignal shining up on the clouds, which should make the audience wonder how Bruce and Dick were able to see Saturn at all, but I digress.
In Season Two's Hot Off The Griddle Dick and Bruce are again at the telescope, this time to observe the Sun in preparation for a total solar eclipse that will occur the next day.
It is an interesting array of telescopes. At right is a tube for what looks like an unfiltered refractor. In the middle is another refractor telescope -- this one clearly has some something that looks like a solar filter on it. Take a look at the one at left, the telescope that Dick is looking through. That's a Newtonian reflecting telescope. Alas, it is currently pointed at Dick's left hand. Yeah, it is pointed the wrong way. Oh, well. They can't get them all right.

Interestingly enough, the total solar eclipse was a major plot point for this episode. At its conclusion Catwoman has captured Batman and Robin and put them in this, the most awesome device to kill the Dynamic Duo ever:
As the episode ends, Batman and Robin are about to be cooked (Catwoman even had them coated in butter!) by sunlight concentrated by two giant magnifying glasses. She was apparently unaware of the total solar eclipse, which reached totality just after she left. During that temporary blockage of sunlight, Batman and Robin were able to use their feet to carefully re-position the magnifying glasses so that when the sunlight returned it would burn through one of straps holding down their wrists.

Well done, Caped Crusaders! It's fun stuff.

So far, I'm only halfway through watching the series and can't wait to see what other fun it brings.

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