7 Awesome Super Powers (Ruined by Science)

7 Awesome Super Powers (Ruined by Science)

Most of us are hoping that, through some kind of nuclear accident or other, we'll wind up with super powers. It's just a matter of time, right?

If you could pick what power you wind up with, what would you take? It's not as easy a choice as it sounds, because as it turns out, you can expect some pretty annoying (or deadly) side effects.


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Man, who doesn't want to be able to fly? You can laugh at gravity, zoom through the air unaided, like Superman or Neo or several thousand species of bird. And, like them, maybe find out what it's like to take a dump in mid-air. What are they going to do, arrest you? Only if the cops have a damned jet.

Oh Shit...

So how fast are you going up there? Were you assuming you'd get super speed to go along with your flight? OK. Have you seen what a bird can do to a jet engine at high speed? Imagine what it does to your face. Yeah, that's why anything going faster than a hang glider has a windshield up there.

But if instead just you're flying at about the same speed you run, then, well, you're like that old couple that drives 25 on the interstate. The crime will be long over by the time your slow ass gets there.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me."

But let's say you did get some kind of speed boost, and a bird-proof face. Do you know where you're going? Up there in the wild blue yonder, without landmarks, how do you expect to navigate? Do you have an exact map of the entire country in your head? Sure, you can find the Empire State building if that's where the bad guys are, but what if the crime is happening in some house way the fuck out in the middle of nowhere, amid a tangle of looping country roads?

OK, so you get some kind of radar installed in your head. But now you have the atmosphere to deal with. Wind constantly blowing particles into your eyes and the freezing cold. Granted, you'd have to go up pretty high to get that effect, but you're not going to be a moron and fly where people can see you.

"'No, honey, you take the car, I'd rather fly'. Such an idiot.

Oh, by the way, you might want to be careful what you wear. Not only is it cold enough to freeze your balls, but lower temperatures mean you're more of a conductor of electricity. It's like when you're walking home on a winter day, come in and shock the shit out of whatever you touch. Multiply that by say, a million. If you're wearing anything like wool--though we don't know what the Hell kind of superhero would wear wool anyway--you're going to be a human capacitor. If you happen to be a supervillain, we suggest working on your Palpatine voice so you can make one Hell of an entrance when you land.

Super Strength

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Super strength, as demonstrated by pretty much every fucking superhero ever, is the superpower that everybody wants most. Yes, more than flight. Flight doesn't do you a damned bit of good if after you get there you can't kick some ass. But there are a couple of big problems with it. Big ones.

Oh Shit...

So the first thing you'll want to do in your career as a superhero is try to lift something huge. Hell, that's all they did in the last Superman movie and--oh no! That bus is falling off a cliff! Better go catch it!

Or you can just hold a bunch of trash, or whatever.

You jump up and catch the underside on your hands. Great job! But, instead of the relieved cries of little Johnny and Mary as they're saved from falling to fiery doom, you hear screams of agony as your hands rip through the undercarriage, up through the aisle, your arms and torso now bloodied like some B-grade zombie. It's not your blood; you just impaled little Johnny from crotch to sternum.

You can thank the laws of physics, specifically, pressure. Because all of your super strength is concentrated in your tiny little hands, you're basically like a dagger plunging into a watermelon. Remember when Superman caught that airliner in Superman Returns? He'd have just gotten embedded in the nosecone. He'd be puncturing the plane, not catching it.

Same thing when you wind up launching yourself into space to stop that asteroid. At best you'll bury yourself in the surface of the rock, at worst you'll crack the thing into pieces, turning one killer asteroid into three. If there were any life on Earth left, we're pretty sure on your tombstone it would read something like "Here lies ______, who passed away from being metaphorically slapped in the face by Isaac Newton's penis."

Super Speed

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So let's settle for a lesser super power. How about super speed, like the Flash? Outrun bullet trains, bullets and/or bullets being fired by trains. You can get anywhere you need to be faster on foot than most people can drive.

Oh Shit...

You may have noticed after your little impression of the Flash that your whole body's wreathed in fire. It's the friction of your body rubbing against a whole bunch of air molecules. The rest of us mortals aren't bothered by that because we move at the pace of a narcoleptic snail compared to you.

So this is the Flash, but fire burned his costume. The fire also gave him a mustache, somehow.

But, hey, maybe you've got some kind of fireproof suit. But Newton is still going to find a way to fuck you up. And if you thought friction was an asshole, wait until you hear what inertia is going to do to you. Let's say you hear about a totally awesome party across town and there's a girl there who wants your junk like, right this second. Zoom, off you go. But wait, what's that gooey shit on the ground behind you?

That, my friend, is your internal organs being liquefied from approximately 25 Gs and pushed out through your pores. Not that you'll care because the moment you do your immediate, Flash-like stop, your brain will go slamming into the front of your skull.

OK, so maybe you've got a special suit that is both fireproof and somehow overcomes the forces of inertia. For super speed to be of any use to you, your perception would have to be sped up as well. Otherwise the landscape will go blurring past and you'll wind up pulverizing yourself on the nearest wall like a fly on a windshield.

OK, so fine, let's say you've got super sped-up senses to go with your super speed. Now your problem is that when you're functioning at normal speed, the rest of the world will seem impossibly slow to your super-fast brain. You watched The Matrix, right? Of course you did, don't play that game. Well, imagine what it would be like if you were in bullet time all the fucking time. Thanks to your sped-up perceptions, everything takes place in super slow motion, including the waiting room at the dentist.


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Ah, telepathy. You're basically like Charles Xavier, and can read people's thoughts. You should be able to tell when somebody's thinking about committing a crime and stop them before they can do it, right? Or you can find out what people really think about you and/or get prices on used cars like you wouldn't believe.

Oh Shit...

People's thought processes don't work at all like they're portrayed in TV shows. When say, Matt Parkman from Heroes picks up someone's thoughts, it's almost always a complete sentence, a complete idea. Humans don't think like that. A peek into your suspected criminal's brain will go something like:

"Holy fuck that chick is hot I'd like to imagine railing her or imagine that other guy railing her with a huge dick wait am I gay for that Hell no chicks are hot just like the Transformers especially Starscream I wonder if he ever did it with Bumblebee and wait what was I supposed to be getting from the store again oh yeah milk why is it okay to drink fluid from a cow's tit but not a human's and... "

"If everyone could just shut up for like five fucking seconds...

All of this will be playing against some 10-second snatch of pop song or commercial jingle they've gotten stuck in their head. And that you now have stuck in yours.

Now, imagine getting something like that, but from multiple people all around you. Imagine sitting in a restaurant trying to have a nice meal when you hear the waiters thinking about the hot hand-to-gland combat session they had in the kitchen and their spunk getting in your soup. Then suddenly you scream in sheer horror as a semi half a block away plows head-on toward a small car--the raw emotion overwhelming your ability to discern whether those are your thoughts or someone else's.

In fact, you likely wouldn't even be able to hear your own thoughts after a while, say, a minute or two. The next thing you know, you're being carted off by the nice men in white coats, babbling and shitting your straitjacket all the way.


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Well, we would, except... we can't see you. Apparently you're invisible, along with Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman and most gases. Though you have to admit, this one would be a Hell of a lot more useful for committing crime than stopping it.

Oh Shit...

Ironically, the rest of the world will be as invisible to you as you are to it. After all, the sense of sight works by having the waves of visible light reflect from an object onto our retinas, where it forms an upside-down image and is transmitted to the brain where it's converted into the image of whatever you were looking at.

You being invisible means that all those light waves are passing through your body. So, sure, they aren't bouncing off you to return to someone else's eyes, but this in turn means that they aren't hitting your own retina, either. So, whenever you're invisible, you're also blind.

Then we get into the whole bizarre question of where exactly your invisibility ends. If it's just your body, then foreign objects that aren't a part of you, like food, can still be seen. Good luck getting a dinner date--we don't exactly think your ability to demonstrate the full process of digestion will help you get the ladies, since they'll be talking to a floating glob of vomit the whole time. Then you get into the dust and moisture that lands on your body, turning you into a clearly visible, if ghostly, shape that will totally defeat the point.

If you somehow get around those problems, we're still assuming your invisibility doesn't somehow make all clothing turn invisible, then you're walking around naked the whole time. This sounds awesome until you're passing through a crowd and some dude accidentally smacks you in the nuts with his briefcase. Since he doesn't know you're there, he's swinging his arm freely, flattening your junk with the full impact of the briefcase's hard, unforgiving metal corner.

Then he's stopping to wonder why suddenly there's a puddle of puke on the ground.

Super Senses

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The human powers of perception, for the most part, are pretty damned limited. Hell, we can only see and hear a small part of the spectrum of waves. But you, you've got super-senses: your sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste are all far beyond what the rest of us experience. You're like Daredevil, only not blind.

Oh Shit...

You don't get to turn off your senses. No senses work that way, and if they did, they'd be useless. How would you know, for instance, to only listen to the crime happening 10 miles away, and not the 50,000 televisions playing between here and there? But it gets much, much worse.

As we mentioned, there's a lot of shit humans can't see or hear. Visible light, for instance, only runs the electromagnetic spectrum between 400 and 700 nanometers. That's about a thousand times less than the width of a human hair. Outside that are radio waves, microwaves, X-rays, gamma rays and pretty much everything else you could think of.

Those billions of particles that gatecrash through Earth's atmosphere from the Sun? Yep, you see them. The shitty "Top 40" songs you hear on the radio? You get to see rippling along the airwaves. You can't look at people without being disgusted--all the hairs and clogged pores and flaking dead skin would make you want to throw up your burrito.

That's just sight. Hearing's something else. You can hear heartbeats, breathing, the gurgle of food digesting. You want to have a hot dirty-talking session with your girlfriend? Better do it in a soundproofed room or you won't hear shit. Actually you will hear shit; you'll hear everyone who's shitting at that moment, clear as a bell.

Someone just got an earful of shit.

Taste and smell would be just as bad. Think about it: cologne, perfume, and the like are strong enough on their own. No matter how good it might smell, if an odor's strong enough it's going to be unbearable. Imagine smelling or tasting it at 10 or 100 times its normal intensity--you'd want to claw out your tongue and plug up your nostrils. And that's good smells--inevitably, there's always going to be a baby that just shit its diaper.


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Mortal coil? What the fuck is that? Most people have existential dread to worry about, because they've only got a few short decades to live before they take that final dirt nap. But you're immortal, just like Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. No pain, no sickness, no aging can harm you. You have all of eternity to do whatever the fuck you want to do, so take your time.

Oh Shit...

Okay, after the first, say, few hundred years, everything's still fine and well. You've seen a few generations of people live and die, and had this happen to your family. Oh well, they were likely douches you could live without anyway at some points. Companionship is companionship, or so you think.

Not so fast: You know how when you were younger (by human terms, a child), an hour seemed like forever to you? As people grow, their brain starts to perceive time differently. An hour feels like less time. Now extend that logic to a year, or a decade, or a century. This means that eventually, you will be completely unable to form relationships with human beings because their lives and deaths will flash past you like a tape on fast-forward.

Let's keep going into the future, since you're a sociopathic recluse and think you're still okay with this whole immortality thing. There are so many things that could go wrong with the planet, an asteroid strike, nuclear war, the LHC, but let's assume the planet somehow makes it through all that without being reduced to dust.

Five billion years from now or so, the Sun expands into a red giant. You survive the first roasting, but nothing else does. The Sun eventually rips planet Earth into rubble with gravity. So now there you are floating in outer space, drifting along, or getting a bitching tan at the heart of the Sun so you can pick up some killer alien chicks in the Andromeda galaxy if you ever get there (you won't).

Either way, a few trillion years later, the universe starts to really show its entropy. Every where is the same. No stars, no planets, no black holes, just an empty, cold mass of subatomic particles that can never come together again. And you, floating along in the void. Forever.

Check out Brockway's column, in which he digs into 5 Scientific Reasons People Act Like Assholes. And check out The Galactic Empire's Official Defense Strategy in our Death Star page.

And stop by Cracked.com's Top Picks to see History's 10 Hottest Women.

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