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.
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.
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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.
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?