Extraordinary strength, super vision, super hearing, super learning – mental powers like photographicmemories, telekinetics, ESP and others way above anything that ordinary people can hope to experience, the list goes on… and not in the pages of comic books, but in the daily news.
What if that could be you? Would you?
Eighty years ago, the son of Krypton appeared for the first time – but not as we know him today. He first appeared as a super villain in the “The Reign of the Superman" (1933), a short story written by Jerry Siegel and illustrated by Joe Shuster. His powers were a prodigious intelligence and a drive for world domination. The very next year Superman started to evolve into the
The writers admitted that the influences for the character were a mix of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s stories (think John Carter of Mars and Tarzan), and also everyday events they became aware of. These events still occur today.
In 2006 in Tucson, Arizona, Tim Boyle watched as a Chevy hit 18-year-old Kyle Holtrust. The car pinned Holtrust, still alive, underneath. Boyle ran to the scene of the accident and lifted the Camaro off the teenager, while another man pulled him to safety. The heaviest barbell lifting record is 1,008 pounds. A stock Chevrolet Camaro weighs 3,000 pounds. Even if you take into account leverage and size of the human, something fantastic happened there that day.
That same year, in Ivujivik, Canada, Lydia Angiyou, 41, fought a three hundred pound polar bear with
Also, this year in Oregon, teenage daughters, Hanna and Haylee (aged 16 and 14) lifted a tractor off their father, again using nothing but their hands.
The lists of stories like these run for dozens of pages – globally. In many of the cases of superhuman feats, it is fear or trauma that initiates the burst of amazing capability. But what about those born… different. Take Liam Hoekstra. Imagine a shrunk down version of Michelangelo’s David statue, and you’ve got Liam. He’s got almost no body fat, 40 percent more muscle mass than the average person and Superman-level strength and speed. But the kicker is, he’s still only five years old.
Even at just 18 months the Michigan miniature power-pack had muscles that gym junkies dream of. Liam was born with myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy, or muscle enlargement. Because of this incredibly rare condition, Liam’s muscles develop faster and stronger than the average person’s — only two days after his birth, the infant was able to stand up with support.Fortunately, doctors aren’t aware of any negative side effects to Liam’s bizarre condition. It’ll be interesting to see how he grows up – and I for one, am betting there’ll be very few other kids in the sandbox who trying kicking sand in this kid’s face (and no, that's not really Liam!).
But Liam is the rare one – it comes back to fear and trauma being the main catalysts for many of these ‘changes’ that occur momentarily or permanently. When we find ourselves under intense pressure, fear unleashes reserves of energy that normally remain inaccessible. We become, in effect, superhuman. What it tells us is super ability is inside us all - this theory is supported by what happens when a person is electrocuted. Someone who is shocked can be thrown a significant distance from where the actual shock occurred. But this is not due to the electric current, no matter how powerful. Instead, it's a sudden and violent contraction of the person's muscles as a result of the electrical charge flowing through the body. This demonstrates a potential for muscle contraction that isn't utilized under normal circumstances. In much the same way that people can't throw themselves across the room, they also can't normally lift a car -- the physical capability isn’t available without a fight-or-flight trigger.
This is a small piece taken from Psychology Today in an article on the effects of Extreme Fear by Jeff Wise*. It shows that under acute stress, the body's sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for
Vladimir Zatsiorsky, a professor of kinesiology at Penn State who has extensively studied the biomechanics of weightlifting, draws the distinction between the force that our muscles are able to theoretically apply, which he calls "absolute strength," and the maximum force that they can generate through the conscious exertion of will, which he calls "maximal strength." An ordinary person, he has found, can only summon about 65 percent of their absolute power in a training session, while a trained weightlifter can achieve close to 80 percent.
Under conditions of competition, and the more intense the competition, the higher it can go, as the brain's fear centers progressively remove any restraint against performance. The mechanisms by which the brain is able to summon greater reserves of power have not been well explored, but it may be related to another of fear's superpowers: analgesia, or the inability to feel pain. Under intense pressure—whether it's a bodybuilding competition, a kid trapped under a car, or an attacking bear—you just won't feel that pain. When you enter a situation that results in a super-primal event, your body moves itself up to another level – you don't feel the ache of your muscles, you don't feel the pain… you just do what needs to be done.
And this brings us the most important question - what if these skills could be created? What if you could choose to be superhuman?
Already, Dr Allen Snyder, founder of the Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney, is working to unlock extraordinary potential in ordinary minds. It is an area he has been investigating since the early 1990s.
There are numerous cases of people becoming super intelligent after a severe brain trauma. What Snyder is working on achieving is unlocking this potential within us all. He turned to transcranial direct-current stimulation, where non-invasive and weak electrical currents are applied to the brain. The small electric current ‘dose’ given, Snyder says, changes the behavior of the underlying neuronsin participants for about an hour. During one experiment, 33 participants were asked to solve the notoriously difficult nine-dots problem, the goal being to connect all nine dots in a square formation using four straight lines, without lifting pen from paper. In the laboratory, Dr Snyder says, about 5 per cent of participants manage to solve it, even with hints and added time. In his experiment group, no participant could solve it. After receiving the stimulation, however, 14 of them cracked it. Snyder and his researchers calculated that the probability they had gone on to solve it by chance was less than one in a billion.
But if super intelligent, savant-like skills become something that could be induced in anyone, would it be unfair? Would it take the intrigue away from skills once seen as unique and unfathomable? On this point, Snyder is focused firmly on the greater good. ''If I gave you a pill to increase intellectual ability, would you think it was cheating if you got a Nobel Prize for curing cancer as a result of taking that pill?'' Good point.
Naturally, many of the world’s military research and development divisions are looking at ways to create their very own Sieger Recke or super-soldier.
Human improvement by natural or artificial means is Human Enhancement and is the term is applied to the use of technological means to select or alter human characteristics and capacities, with the intent of moving them beyond the existing human range – bigger, stronger, faster, more aggressive, whether on the sporting or battle field… it's coming, and breakthroughs are imminent.
In the meantime, there are other avenues for rapid super powers – Super-Suits are a reality... right now. As an example, defense technology developer Lockheed Martin leads the efforts to develop an exoskeleton fit for the battlefield with its Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC). The system aims to divert up to 200 lbs in weight through powered titanium legs while allowing the user to move freely. Lockheed claims that a fully laden soldier will retain the ability to march at 3mph and even break into 10mph sprint "bursts" while wearing the battery-powered HULC (HULC not shown).
The only drawback from immediate deployment are the requirement for better power-cells (hello Tony Stark?), and the software required to ‘tap into’ the human brain – this is vital for the suit’s ability to understand and transform human intent instantaneously into super-assisted action.
In my Alex Hunter Arcadian adventures, people have asked a
The next super man or woman? They could be closer than you know!
What if you could choose to be 'Superhuman.' by Greig Beck (www.greigbeck.com) 6Aug2013.
* Psychology Today: Extreme Fear - Getting a grip on the brain's alarm system, by Jeff Wise. ( http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/extreme-fear/200912/superhuman-no-just-very-scared )