At one time or another, we’ve all wished for an extraordinary ability.
From the gadget-fueled vengeance of the world’s greatest detective to the all-American heroism of the man of steel, we live in a world where we are surrounded on all sides by tales of lone men bestowed with great power who shape the world to match their vision. For the longest time, superheroes were just that, a dream… a fantasy. They were an exaggerated paragon intended to be admired but never imitated.
Our concept of superheroes was forever changed thanks to a group of creative individuals led by comics genius and cameo star Stan Lee.
It was Stan Lee, along with the likes of Jack Kirby, who made these inimitable figures relatable… made them human. In true form, their vision of the superhero was more akin to the Greek concept of the demigod. Flawed and decidedly human in their thinking, Lee’s heroes struggled in the way that all men struggle: often and largely due to their own inadequacies. But it was these simple, human struggles that drove the audience to relate.
Readers want to be like Superman, but they want to be Spider-Man.
If gangly, bespectacled Peter Parker — who struggled even to find a date — could be transformed into a web-slinging, wall-crawling crime-fighter, well, then who couldn’t become a hero? It is this simple shift, this movement of focus from “super” to “human,” that has inspired countless readers throughout the years to pursue their own avenues of superhumanity.
In this day and age, as science advances, we are beginning to close the gap between man and superman. Even if by the faintest degree, we are pulling ourselves — our species — upwards, towards that once mythical and unobtainable ideal. We are, in fact, building the supermen and, one day, you could be one too.
So, from the keys to the underwater kingdom to battery powered armor, here is a list of six technologies aiming to make men into supermen.
6 An Injection Makes You Not Need To Breathe
Aquaman takes a lot of flak for not carrying his weight in the Justice League but — really, now — how sweet would it be to be able to hold your breath for 30 minutes? To reign as king of Atlantis and among your subjects count the likes of sharks, dolphins, and those hellish fish that are all teeth and use a dancing bioluminescent filament to lure smaller fish into their mouths? Seriously, those things are the free candy van of the aquatic underworld.
Well, science may soon take the first step towards making that fantasy a reality. A team of scientists at Boston’s Children’s Hospital have created an injectable solution that allows a person to survive 15 to 30 minutes without breathing. The solution, composed of oxygen gas pocketed in a layer of lipids, directly oxygenates the blood without the need for paltry little human indulgences like breathing.
5 Google Glass Gives You Perfect Memory
Marvel’s Taskmaster — a supervillain turned anti-hero — unlocked his mind’s potential for procedural memory. His “photographic reflexes” allow him to instantly replicate any action that he’s witnessed. The inherent limit of Taskmaster’s abilities is that his emulation of skills does not impart on him an understanding of those skills.
Much like Taskmaster’s memory, Google Glass allows users to photograph and record to video any action that they witness. Furthermore, Google Glass allows wearers instant access to a vast — nearly unlimited — store of data. In a pinch and need to know how to hot wire a 1997 Ford Taurus? Google Glass can help you. And, while they can’t give you an understanding of what you’re doing, just like Taskmaster’s procedural memory, they can certainly show you how to do it.
4 See The Future Thanks To IBM
Doctor Strange is, well… true to his name. Created by renowned recluse Steve Ditko who was no stranger to the strange himself, Doctor Strange is a former neurosurgeon turned full-time sorcerer supreme, the mystical protector of Earth. Featuring a host of mystical influences, surrealistic alternate dimensions and visuals seemingly ripped straight out of an acid trip, Doctor Strange was — of course — widely appreciated by 1960s college students who approached it with the same reverence afforded to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
But even Doctor Strange, the world’s mightiest sorcerer who wielded the power to foretell the future, could not predict the recent developments in predictive analytics. Since 2010, law enforcement agencies across the country have been using IBM’s predictive analytics software in an effort to lower the number of reoffenders by determining which candidates are most likely to reoffend. IBM has not been shy about sharing the program’s efficiency, in one instance stating that, “Memphis Police Department's predictive crime prevention practices include[d] a 30% reduction in serious crime overall.”
3 The Military Is Building Iron Man
Billionaire dilettante Tony Stark’s powered armor transforms him into the superhero Iron Man. The armor — boasting a self-contained environment, multiple weapons systems, enhanced strength and radar sensors — transforms the drunkard Stark into a one man crime fighting machine. Literally.
It is, perhaps, not surprising that science is very close to making Iron Men a reality. The US military’s “Future Force Warrior” project has long envisioned soldiers bolstered by nanotechnology, powered exoskeletons and lightweight, fluid body armor. To that end, the Raytheon XOS exoskeleton — designed for military use — allows its wearer to effortlessly lift up to 200 lbs. Another entry, the aptly named Cyberdyne (not to be confused with the Terminator series’ Cyberdyne Systems) has also created the HAL 5, an exoskeleton capable of reading nerve signals sent from the wearer’s brain and using those signals to amplify their motions.
2 Be Unseen With An Invisibility Cloak
Sue Storm, otherwise known as the Invisible Woman, gained her powers after being exposed to a cosmic storm. The storm granted her the ability to bend lightwaves in a radius around her, rendering herself invisible. Sue Storm made her first appearance in 1961’s Fantastic Four #1 and was famously played by Jessica Alba in 2005’s Fantastic Four, the longevity of her character speaks volumes about the audience’s desire to share her powers.
If Nathan Landy and David R. Smith have anything to say about it, that desire may soon be sated. In 2006 the team posited a theoretical material that would cloak objects within it. Later that year, they created it. The material — called a “metamaterial” — bends some forms of light around its edges, effectively rendering anything behind it invisible.
1 See Like Superman (Sort Of)
The quintessential superhero, Superman… faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Superman has captured the public’s imagination for over seven decades with his perfectly distilled combination of everyman attitude and superhuman strength. In the 2013 film Man of Steel, one of the Man of Tomorrow’s many double-edged powers — X-ray vision — is explored as it wreaks havoc on the adolescent Clark Kent’s ability to concentrate.
That same power was the subject of several experiments by researchers John Peabody and Gregory Charvat at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The pair explored the possibility of amplifying the faint traces of radiation captured by taking an X-ray image of a wall. Effectively, they devised a process by which meaningful images could be captured by X-raying large, solid structures. Their work has paved the way for the development of real-time “X-ray vision” that can see behind enemy fortifications and even into the interior of buildings.