5 Superpowers Science Will Give Us in Our Lifetime

5 Superpowers Science Will Give Us in Our Lifetime

Every one of us once dreamed of donning some spandex pants and taking our brand of renegade crime fighting to the streets. The only problem was our total lack of super powers, and the fact that when we blasted ourselves with gamma radiation we only got a super-powered tumor that becomes more malignant when angered.

Recent scientific breakthroughs are changing that. Within our lifetimes we just might be able to see mankind do the things it only wrote about in cheap picture books and their multi-billion dollar film adaptations. Some day, you or your children may very well get to be ...

Iron Man

The Character's Power: Technologically advanced battle suit.

After being kidnapped by the Vietnamese (or in the film, some brown people) billionaire inventor Tony Stark MacGyver's himself a technological wonder of a battle suit that simultaneously prevents shards of shrapnel from entering his heart and helps him explode you with literal hand cannons.

How Science Can Give It To You:
Meet HAL 5.

HAL 5 is an acronym for Hybrid Assistive Limb ... 5. HAL is an artificial powered exoskeleton. In other words, a technological wonder of a suit that is capable of allowing the user to carry five times the weight they could normally carry.

"When a person attempts to move, nerve signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via motoneuron, moving the musculoskeletal system as a consequence." We just copy and pasted that from the official HAL website because it sums it up well enough (apparently just saying, "When you move, this thing moves HARDER!" is too simplistic for the type of people who know how to make cybernetic suits).

Unlike Tony Stark's "Mark VI" Iron Man suit, HAL was not invented for tearing-ass through a war zone, leaving behind a trail of men slowly realizing they just got their limbs torn off by a robot. On the contrary, HAL was designed for factory work, disaster relief, assisting disabled people, and, as the website states, "the entertainment field" which we're sure is code for "Superhuman Endurance Sexbot."

The only problem is ...
You'll probably think we're being silly when we point out that "HAL" is also the name of the AI in 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you're having trouble remembering the character let us refresh your memory: HAL 9000 spied some astronauts talking shit about him behind his back, and went on a murderous rampage in response. Probably just coincidence, right? Surely not a sign that the inventors have evil intentions or anything.

Well, do you remember when we linked the official HAL website earlier? Look at the web address. That's www.cyberdyne.jp. Cyberdyne! As in, "the manufacturers of the Terminator" Cyberdyne.

Don't get us wrong, we're not saying this isn't an amazing technology. All we're saying is that you should find your nearest John Conner and sequester him in your local underground robot apocalypse bunker before some dip-shit scientist puts some kind of thinking chip in these things.

Jean Grey (X-Men)

The Character's Power: Telekinesis.

Jean Grey, more commonly known as "That redheaded bitch that dies whenever shit gets serious," has telekinetic powers that allow her to do much more than lift simple objects with her mind. She can also use her powers as a kind of Jedi-like force push and as a defensive shield.

How Science Can Give It To You:
The Brain-Gate Neural Interface System (BGNIS).

Foxborough, Massachusetts based company Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc. is working on technologies that let the paralyzed interact with their surroundings using only their thoughts. The "Gate" in the name refers to a computer interface that acts as a gateway for the entire process. The system begins with the implantation of a sensor in the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement.

This sensor detects neural signals that your brain would normally use to tell your body to move. But, rather than having this information transmitted to an arm or leg these signals get relayed to a computer which then decodes the information and converts it into a physical action. So when you think about an action (say, giving a stripper a dollar) that thought would go though the computer which then would activate a device (say, the dollar bill cannon attached to your pelvis).

The BGNIS project has been approved by the FDA and Cyberkinetics hopes this technology will be ready for the mass market within three to five years.

The only problem is ...
This technology clearly isn't going to stay limited to the disabled. The prospect for being able to, with a simple implant, turn on your coffee maker or car with the power of your thoughts, will be too much to resist. How will a society already plagued by obesity and sedentary lifestyles adjust to the invention of the mind controlled pudding cannon?

And how long until a group of rogues find a way to get souped-up implants that let them take over your car from a mile away? Or send your lawnmower on a murderous rampage?

They'll also make it fly somehow

Without the wisdom of a Dr. X to guide them, they will wreak havoc on a world too fat to defend itself.


The Character's Power: Web slinging and wall climbing.

When a young loser named Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider he becomes endowed with the powers of an arachnid. He can crawl on walls and, just to round out the whole "Spider" gimmick, he invented his own web slingers. Furthermore, he has a spider's ... precognitive abilities? We must have missed that day of science class.

How Science Can Give It To You:
Carbon nanotube technology and nanoglue.

Spidey holds the honorable distinction of being the only character on this list that has two real life technologies currently being researched that can one day bring us a step closer to being riddled with bullets after trying to stop a bank robbery.

First up is carbon nanotube technology, which will basically be Velcro for the "What the fuck is Velcro?" societies of the future. Like Velcro, carbon nanotubes can be formed as a series of hooks and loops that interlock, thereby creating a clinging effect. Unlike Velcro, these hooks and loops are microscopic and can latch on to nearly any surface imaginable, even while underwater.

The creator of the nanotube, Italian scientist Nicola Pugno, says that when placed on gloves and boots, his wall-crawling breakthrough would be able to keep a fully grown person suspended on a ceiling. He hopes to have a prototype suit out by 2010.

The second Spider-Man tech that will revolutionize the way we as a society approach cosplaying is more of a theory, but it's a very promising one at that. This theory is based around something called nanoglue.

A group of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scientists working with nanolayers (molecular chains of carbon molecules with elements such as silicon, oxygen or sulfur) accidentally found that heating nanolayers of commercially available glue sandwiched between copper and silica, it created a bond that one researcher called "As strong as a motherfucker."

Metal chains and hooks are metaphorical

The leader of the project, Professor Ganapathiraman Ramanath, hypothesizes that this "nanoglue" could be used as a real-life version of Spider-Man's web shooters:

"If we can find a way to create threads and/or intertwined bundles using the molecules in a scalable fashion, while retaining the adhesive properties, then creating web-shooters similar to Spiderman's is a real possibility," he said as he pointed to the face of Spider-Man gracing the crotch flap of his Underoos.

The only problem is ...
We admit, it's awesome that a mountain climber plummeting to his death may one day be able take a minute to enjoy the quickly passing scenery before deploying a stream of stringy glue that will save his life, before crawling effortlessly back up the rocky cliff with his hands.

The problem is that once the method of web-swinging from building to building becomes possible, no one will ever use any other means of transport. So what's wrong with that? Well, what goes unreported in Spider-Man films and comics is the hundreds of long, sticky strings of web he leaves behind wherever he goes.

In the city of the future, where rush hour features a few million Spideys web-slinging their way to the office, pretty soon every building is going to look like it's either wearing a fur coat, or been Bukakked within mere inches of its life.


The Character's Power: Fast-healing wounds via tissue regeneration.

According to the comic, the man formally known as James Howlett was born with keen animal senses and lizard-like tissue regeneration abilities. That made him a prime candidate for an experimental surgery that grafted adamantium to his bones. The lesson learned here is that you never give metal claws to something that doesn't die when you shoot it in the head.

How Science Can Give It To You:
The extracellular matrix.

In 2005, Lee Spievack, a man working in a Cincinnati hobby store, sliced off the tip of his finger as he was showing a customer how you can lose a finger when dealing with a model plane's motor. This is either an ironic accident or the single most badass thing any retail associate has ever done to sell a customer.

In another ironic twist to the plot, Spievack just so happened to have a brother in the tissue regeneration business. This brother told his fingertip-less sibling to forgo a simple skin graft and opt for a ride on a model train toward the future of wound healing: a powder made from the extract of a pigs' bladder. This extract is called the Extracellular Matrix.

This protein-based substance can also be found in human fetuses and assists in repairing any damage incurred by even the most hardcore fetus. Supposedly when the extracellular matrix is turned into a powder and applied to a wound the substance breaks down the surrounding tissue and causes it to rebuild in the same way it would in the womb. Which theoretically should let you heal stab wounds in seconds, while the knife wielding thug looks on in terror, stuttering, "T-THAT's IMPOSSIBLE!"

Well, maybe not exactly that quickly. But within four weeks of applying the powder, Spievack's finger tip grew back, nail and all.

The only problem is ...
Some scientists do contend that he could have tossed Pop Rocks on the stub and he still may have grown back the finger tip, as it wasn't like he had lost the whole finger or anything so a natural healing wasn't out of the question. Still, as we type this sentence, military research is being conducted on this pig bladder based limb re-grower. So as unbelievable as the story sounds, at least somebody thinks there's something to it.

We can't argue with helping the wounded grow back tissue and limbs. The problem will come once somebody inevitably says, "You know, since we're growing it back anyway, we might as well grow it back better."

We could be looking at a future of monstrocities, swimmers cutting off their hands to get webbed fingers, basketball players adding a foot to their height by cutting off their legs, and men doing the unthinkable for the chance to be endowed like a porn star. Clearly this would be a terrible thing, somehow.

Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman

The Character's Power: Invisibility.

Wikipedia says, "She has the psionic ability to manipulate ambient cosmic energy to mentally bend all wavelengths of light (including infrared and ultraviolet radiation) around her body without causing any visible distortion." See, that's why Wikipedia is untrustworthy. It took 30 words to say something that only takes one.

How Science Can Give It To You:

Susumu Tachi, a scientist at Tokyo University, is hard at work on a ground-breaking piece of tech that could very well be one of mankind's greatest achievements ... until it's used by chronic masturbators to peer in on your sexual exploits, that is.

What Tachi has done is create the fabled invisibility cloak through the usage of a camera that records a background image. This Background image is then projected via a device that scientists have dubbed a "Projector" that actually "projects" the background image on to a screen.

Here's where the real science comes in to play: This projection can only be seen on a special material known as retro-reflectum, a material made-up of thousands of tiny beads that were specially designed to capture the projected image. This retro-reflectum allows a projected image to be seen in three dimensions or, rather, to be projected in three dimensions. The image wraps around the cloak wearing subject, thus, creating a sense of blending in with the moving background.

A platoon tests prototype retro-reflectum camoflage

Tachi envisions a future where such a system lets pilots look right through the floor of a plane's cockpit to see the ground (or, you could do the same with the passengers if you wanted to fuck with them) or it could be used on surgical gloves, so surgeons can see through their own hands and get a full view of the operation.

Time magazine even dubbed it one of the "Coolest Inventions" of 2003, saying it would be on the market by 2008, so it's a little late.

The only problem is ...
Or is it? Couldn't somebody be outside your window right now?

Even if nobody is watching you in the shower every night, the military is going wild thinking about chilling ways to apply the stuff. The fine folks at DARPA (the Department of Defense's research and development team that created ARPANET, the precursor to the very same internet you are using right now) wants to create shields for soldiers that can be seen and fired through from one side, invisible and bulletproof from the other.

They have given plenty of scientific reasoning explaining how this would work but halfway through reading it we came to the conclusion that it must have not been in English. The whole thing just sounds like cheating.

Because those superheroes are going to need something to protect us against, please enjoy David Wong's look at 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen. Or check out the greatest pizza ad you've ever seen.
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