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Perhaps Not Superhero But Possibly Superhuman?

Is there is a Sci-Fi fan who hasn’t imagined themselves in the place of their favourite character?

With unnatural strength, incredible intelligence and abilities that sometimes lean towards the bizarre, these characters have lives we think of as extra-ordinary. Real life seems mundane by comparison! Until you hear about the people who make real life stranger than fiction: the Malaysian ‘Magnet Man’ and little boys who can make a seasoned gymnast envious of their strength…something that seems straight from the mind of Stan Lee, no?

Think of a word. Now imagine if every time you say a word it looked like this:

Or perhaps if every time you saw colours dance before your eyes whenever you played the piano… Anyone remember Heroes Season 4 and Emma?  Approximately 1 out of 2000 people have the neurological condition Synaesthesia whereby they have multiple senses that will react to stimuli. While most people hear sounds some see them as colours. Although interesting, is it actually useful? Well researchers claim that because ‘synesthetes’ can associate more of their senses with certain stimuli they may have a greater memory capacity.

Synasthesia or a superpower? Emma Coolidge the deaf receptionist in Heroes Season 4 © Wikidot

Daniel Tammet is one such individual who, at age 29, memorised pi to 22,514 places as well as 11 languages! Others would say that a synesthete’s special relationship with their senses has also meant that they are more in touch with their artistic side. Many poets, artists and musicians have Synesthesia, or are suspected to have it. The names Stevie Wonder or David Hockney might ring a bell…

However this is just the tip on the iceberg of amazing mental abilities. The human brain, as powerful as it is mysterious and there is no better proof of this than in the so called ‘savants’. Savant, from the french ‘to know’, is what one would call an individual with incredible memory. Savants have been known to have an aptitude for mental calculations, languages, art, music and spatial skills. Ever heard of  Rain Man? (1988.) It was a film based on Kim ‘Kimputer’ Peek who, despite severe brain damage and physical disabilities, can speed read a book in an hour and recall every page. He has read more than 12,000 books of which he can recall every detail.

Peek 1951-2009 © via Wikipedia

Ellen Boudreaux is blind. However she can also play perfectly a song she has heard only once: using a kind of echolocation/chirping so that she does not run into things and knows the time without using a clock. You should remember that although savants do have these incredible abilities there is a downside. Almost all savants have autism or other disabilities, mental or otherwise.

The protein myostatin is what tells our muscles to stop growing. And now there are reports that children with the myostatin gene mutation don’t produce as much myostatin and so their muscles don’t stop growing. Liam Hoekstra from Michigan,USA, has this mutation and at just 5 months was able to do a cross position on the iron rings. This is not the only way in which people have displayed strength. There is something in our brains that limits us from using our full strength and in times of crisis people have overcome this… In 2012 Lauren Kornacki lifted a car, which had pinned her father to the ground in a fit of ‘hysterical strength’.

Perhaps one of the most bizarre cases is that of Liew Thow Lin, Malaysia, also known as ‘The Magnetic Man’. He has the ability to make metal objects stick to his body, even pulling a car using just this. Although he has attracted a lot of attention as ‘the Magnetic man’ he is no Magneto. Instead he has a genetic condition which means that his skin has a ‘suction’ capability through high friction.

You might remember what messing around with gamma rays did to one scientist © marvelousRoland via Flickr

These are just a few ways in which humans have changed what we deem impossible to something improbable. Of course scientists hope to study these ‘superhumans’ for medical as well as military uses, something which never seems to work out in the movies.

Time can only tell whether such things will become commonplace or just something else for us humans to wonder about. Whether the concept of being superhuman is just a small part of our mysterious world… or the next step in our evolution.