Astrophysics for Supervillains


Astrophysics for Supervillains title slide

This talk was designed for the IoA Open Day held on March 19 2016. I got to dress up in a menacing cloak, perfect my evil laugh, and teach a class of budding supervillains (a.k.a. the audience) about the darkest, twistiest, most powerful bits of astrophysics—as well as how they could be used for nefarious purposes. The talk was a massive hit, with the entire lecture theatre packed out and people being turned away at the door. All in all, I am extremely pleased with how fun this talk was to prepare and how positive the audience reaction was.

At this stage I am not putting the entire thing online, as there were several large animations that chew up space, but here are a couple of snapshots of my favourite slides:

An exploding Earth

Visual explanations make everything clearer, especially when the subject is "how to destroy the Earth".

The Death Star firing a beam of energy

We discussed how the inverse-square law dilutes energy in space. I also strongly advised against the use of a spaceship-mounted laser. Although it may seem like a good idea at the time, your spaceship will inevitably become the target for every rebel alliance in the galaxy.

The Supervillain Creed: impressive, ingenious, impractical

Finally, never forget the Supervillain Creed. Your plans must be three things:

  1. impressive: no supervillain worth their salt would dream of attempting anything less than world domination or something of a similar scale!
  2. ingenious: you will be up against the toughest superheroes in the world, and consequently you must be prepared with the most dastardly of schemes!
  3. completely and utterly impractical: your plans must be nearly impossible to pull off. After all, you are inevitably going to fail.