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As a comedy website that's equally into science and pop culture, we haven't always been able to resist combining the two. As a result, we may have occasionally ended up scrutinizing some of the best superpowers and thoroughly ruining them with science. For today's column, I figured that it would be nice to try a different approach. Let's look at all the wonderful things science is researching in order to give us superpowers, whether it knows it or not. Then we'll see if humanity can't ruin that shit all by ourselves.

Spoiler: We can. Magnificently.


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We've already covered how much ass it would suck to fly in the traditional superhero sense. (Hint: You'd be slow, disoriented, and freezing.) Luckily, science is not about to make birdmen out of us all (as far as we know), so we can continue ignoring that poser Superman and focus on Falcon-style flying apparatuses instead.

If I was a betting man, I'd be willing to wager cash money that we'll see some form of light, personal aeronautin' make its breakthrough within the next few years or so. With all the jet packs and flying cars humanity is tinkering with, it's just a matter of which method gets it right first.

Here's hoping it's a motherfucking hoverboard.

How This Will Work Out For You:

Whether science slaps you in the face with a goofy, water-powered hose pack or a full-on anti-gravity flight suit, chances are it will not provide you the all-embracing joy the most popular of all powers technically should. The reason for this is simple: regulations. Look how glorious flying should be on paper, and look what a logistical nightmare of safety procedures and airport food and sitting in a metal cigar that smells like recycled farts it actually is. There's a reason for that, and you damn well know it: Flying things are more dangerous than bombs in the wrong hands.

Trinette Reed/Blend Images/Getty Images
Especially if you insist in doing it the creepy Matrix way, in which case I will personally ride a missile at you, Dr. Strangelove-style.

That's why I'm calling it right now: Somewhere, there's a government agency that no one knows about -- not because it's super secretive, but because it's just such a bureaucratic stain on the State's underpants that no one pays attention to it. Ever since jetpacks hit the silver screen, they've been spending decades studiously drafting future rules and guidelines for when they finally become commonplace. So the first guy buying the Apple iFly in 2020 will most likely be slapped with a 8,000-page manual full of things he specifically isn't allowed to do with his newly-acquired gift of flight; and that's after he's undergone rigorous pilot training.

He'd better memorize all those rules, too, unless he wants the Flight Police to take him down.

Your Future Arch-Nemesis:

Form 38754/C5/B, section 84a in the Flight Suit Airman Certificate And/Or Rating Application. For, like, the fifth goddamned time.


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Regardless of his vast powers, Spider-Man's signature "holy shit, danger looming" sense is pretty much the only thing that's been keeping him alive all these years (along with his power to keep Marvel and Sony rolling in dough). Good news! You already have a spider-sense! Sort of!

Very, very sort of.

Research suggests that humans have actually already developed a spider-sense that warns us of danger. There's just one catch: It only works on spiders. Humanity evolved in a world filled with many a super-poisonous eight-legged critter, and because our ancestors already sensed the impending arrival of Australia, they started developing a much keener eye for noticing spiders than, say, flies or other marginally less disgusting pests. That's, uh, pretty much it. Sorry.

How This Will Work Out For You:

Regardless of how cool your costume might be, Can-See-Spiders-Everywhere-Man has precious little potential for public adoration. Luckily, science doesn't leave your potential Spider-Manhood hanging (I'm not going to apologize for that joke) just because your innate spider powers are shittier than those of Ralph, the guy whose sweat smells like cat farts somehow. Researchers at the University of Illinois have been tinkering with a spider-sense suit that can give you this particular power in a more classic comic book sense -- i.e. a tingling feeling that warns you of impending danger.

Lance Long/Forbes
Might want to customize its look a little, though.

Sadly, the suit does no favors for your reflexes or physical strength, but at least you'll know when to mule-kick Flash Thompson in the dick when he's creeping behind you to give you a wedgie.

Your Future Arch-Villain:

No one or everyone, depending on how you approach your newfound power. Here's the thing about scientific spider-sense: It's not so much a tool for punch-dodging, but for letting your body know that someone is getting close. Take a walk through a crowded street and see how that works out for you. Yes, this holy-shit-something's-close ability might make you maybe 10 percent Spider-Man (and roughly 25 percent Daredevil, as this sensor suit is primarily meant as a tool for the visually impaired). However, the drawback is that your life will be a constant, omnidirectional tingle-hell that will provide you with precisely two options: You Pavlov's-dog yourself into lashing out at every single thing that your suit warns you about (making you basically a really shitty version of Venom), or you learn to ignore that shit altogether, which leaves you exactly where you started.

And if you for whatever reason lack the heist skills to acquire the suit at all, and thus are stuck with your brain's bullshit spider recognition software, your best bet is to head for the nearest punk rock club and find the skinny guy in a sleeveless denim jacket who goes by the name "Spider" (every one of those places has at least three of these people in stock at any given time) and pick a fight, because there's no way he hasn't done something illegal in the last week. He'll probably kick your ass, but hey, who said superheroing would be easy?

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Shooting Lightning

Shockingly (hee hee hee), it turns out that lightning guns are already a thing, and have been since at least 2012. Why have I not heard about them? Why don't I own one? Holy shit, does everyone else have one already? Are ... are you guys all flying hot air balloons above the clouds, drunkenly firing these things at me and pretending that it's stormy? Because it sure would explain why I often wake up with my hair singed and my mouth tasting like copper.

I'm not even talking about Tasers and whatnot, oh no. The US Army apparently has an actual lightning gun which shoots 50 billion watts' worth of lasers at a target, which then gets immediately blasted by the following lightning-like plasma. What's more, its electro-wall-style barrier variation is already a proud Cracked alum, so technically, this means that the Army owes us one. Maybe they'll let us borrow one of these guns if we ask nicely? Or, failing that, shoot us with one and grant us electric powers, like Ernest P. Worrell?

How This Will Work Out For You:

Ah, therein lies the problem. See, simple access to a lightning gun doesn't make you Thor. It just makes you some dickhead with the ability to shoot lightning. Technically, you're now noted joke villain Electro, only you can be punched a lot more easily. And considering you're now holding an experimental device that you, uh, borrowed from the military, I think it's safe to say that you will be punched.

Your Future Arch-Nemesis:

Whoever was guarding the weapon as you took it, I suppose. You'll lose like you did it for a living, too. As powerful as your new weapon may make you, and as compelling as the idea of a grandstanding battle against the Army forces coming to take you down may be, I think we can all agree that any weapon that can be negated with a well-aimed bucket of water is not the best weapon. So, you know, if you absolutely have to roll with this one, at least invest in a full rubber gimp suit before initiating combat.

Super Soldier Serum

John Lund/Sam Diephuis/Blend Images/Getty

There are two simple ways to acquire Captain-America-level super strength without hitting the gym like a 1970s-era Arnold Schwarzenegger. The easier one is using your natural brain juice as a makeshift super-soldier serum. This is easily done by having a car fall on your loved one and seeing if your adrenaline boost is enough to lift it. [Note: Please do not do this. -- Cracked legal dept.]

The another method is to acquire some of that myostatin serum scientists used to double the strength of mice in 2011, because what works on mice works on humans. Why else would we test our drugs on them? [Note: This is 100 percent wrong, both scientifically and morally. -- Legal] How you get your hands on it is, of course, your own business. Personally, I'd start by putting together a skillful heist crew. Just leave a note behind the third stall in the Detroit bus station's men's room, and you will be contacted. The code word is "Clarence." [Look, just don't do anything this man asks you, OK? He pulled this one on us during the last company picnic, and let us tell you, Clarence is a dick. -- L]

How This Will Work Out For You:

When discussing the drawbacks of super strength, most people point out that you'd probably mess yourself up something terrible unless you also became invulnerable (which you won't), what with the stress on your joints and bones and whatnot when lifting Mack trucks and punching through walls. I think these people think far too highly of humanity when they assume that the folks who suddenly acquire magic-level strength would even use their power at all.

Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
"Ever since I took the super soldier serum, I can eat ten times as much popcorn."

Be honest: When was the last time you really did anything requiring vast physical strength? "Never, because I don't have any," you say? Fair enough. But what makes you think you'd ever start doing super-strong shit just because you suddenly gained the ability to lift a six-person dinner table with one hand? Having strength doesn't mean you have any more inclination to get physical than you used to. As I've mentioned before, the human brain loves the status quo, and yours is unlikely to be thrilled about your new ability to bench-press a Prius if you aren't already an enthusiastic sports-doer. And if you are, all it's doing is artificially enhancing you. In a sense, you will be a lifeless, flaccid penis, and the serum will be Viagra.

Your Future Arch-Nemesis:

That fucking friend who changes apartments like other people change shirts, and figures he might as well save on moving help, because surely, you can help him carry that fucking couch for the third time this year.

The third time? Damn it, Steve.

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Igor Zhuravlov/iStock/Getty Images

Awesomely, scientists are currently working on not one but two different methods of teleportation. Less awesomely from an aspiring superhero's point of view, one of them includes the world "quantum," only applies to properties of photons, and is mainly giving boners to people designing future supercomputers. As for the other method, well ... remember that old discussion about whether the teleported object that arrives is the same as the one that left? This German method conclusively solves that dilemma by destructively scanning the first object and rebuilding an exact copy in another location with the magic of 3D printing.

Still, progress marches on. Just a few decades ago, we would have laughed at the concept of 3D printing, or even the mobile phone-camera-computer-magic box you probably read this article on. While I'm sure a more scientifically-oriented writer (like Cracked's own Luke McKinney) could explain at length why this doesn't mean science is about to enable you to pop out for McDonald's in the blink of an eye, I'm choosing to believe that we'll get there eventually. It won't be today, and I wouldn't hold my breath about tomorrow, either. But maybe in 20 years' time, you can terrify your children by giving a completely new meaning to the term "turning up unannounced."

JackF/iStock/Getty Images
"At least this time, she didn't just straight-up appear in the bedroom."

How This Will Work Out For You:

Even if they one day sort out the kinks of teleportation for real, chances are it will remain one of the most useless superpowers there is. Let's play make-believe and say that science finally manages to cough up a portable device that allows you to teleport Nightcrawler-style, without the assistance of cupboard-sized gizmos that'll probably wind up turning you into a ladybug creature or whatever (Hey, we can't all be Jeff Goldblums). With a power like that, it's absolutely possible to become a hyper-competent warrior-scout, like said Nightcrawler and his dad Azazel in the X-Men franchise. You may even venture a few quick teleports to see what it feels like. And then reality sets in.

20th Century Fox
In reality, this fucker would have been two hands sticking from a tree by the third "bamf."

When was the last time you stubbed a toe? Or bumped into something? Accidentally dropped a coffee cup? That's how aware of your surroundings you are when your body's just hanging around in its natural state. With teleportation, each and every one of those little bumps you take on a daily basis become potentially crippling or even life-ending bullshit. Comic books tend to handwave this with a secondary power called "spatial awareness," but you're not going to have that luxury. Miscalculate your landing point just the tiniest bit, and your foot is a part of the curb. Time a jump wrong in a fight, and your foot and the villain's ass will connect in ways you both could do without. Shit, even knowing your surroundings and controlling your power perfectly is no guarantee of safety. All it takes is one dumbfuck Sunday driver taking a turn into a no-driving area, and boom! You're going to spend the rest of your life as a Hyundai centaur.

Your Future Arch-Nemesis:

IKEA, in the courtroom, for the way they abruptly changed their store layout so that you ended up fusing your right buttock with a Hemnes coffee table while attempting to teleport your way directly to those sweet, sweet Swedish meatballs.

Pauli is a Cracked weekly columnist and freelance editor. He has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and YouTube, where you can catch all our video content, such as Why Invisibility Is The Worst Superpower and other videos you won't see on the site!

For more from Pauli, check out 5 Things You Can't F#@k Up (Humanity Has Officially Ruined) and 5 Insane Erotic Toys That Prove We're Overthinking Sex.

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