Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Problems with superpowers

  1. May 25, 2014 #1
    Has any body ever heard things like if you could see through everything you wouldn't be able to see anything at all
    Can anybody else think of any similar situations but with different powers?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 25, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

  4. May 25, 2014 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    There are...literally tons of problems...with basically all of the super powers (at least, any of the ones that are powerful). It's best to just enjoy the comic/movie/cartoon and suspend disbelief while you're watching them.
  5. May 26, 2014 #4


    User Avatar

    I haven't heard of anything of that sort but I believe having super powers would be really neat. Like superman, who wouldn't want that sort of strength, heat ray vision, and the ability to fly? I don't see any cons, just pros. It also depends what sort of 'person' ends up getting this power, either he will do good or bad for the universe.
  6. May 26, 2014 #5


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Well, as an example of something that has always bugged me - an invisible man will always be blind. This is because light passes right through him, and therefore there will be no image formed on his retinas.

    I suppose it's possible to postulate that he only allows visible wavelengths to pass through him, but is opaque to some non-visible parts of the spectrum, *plus* his retinal photochemistry is uniquely adapted to be sensitive to those non-visible parts of the spectrum (The X-men series has examples of mutants with "synergistic" powers manifesting together, e.g. Viper in the movie Wolverine, who is not only able to secrete her own venom, but is also immune to all known toxins). But this also offers an easy countermeasure for enemies using special optical equipment to hunt him down. Of course, the other alternative is that the invisible man can 'see' by echolocation a la the movie version of Daredevil (who is blind but very much visible).
  7. May 28, 2014 #6


    User Avatar

    Having strength and invulnerability on the scale of superman would be an exercise in frustration. With that level of strength it would be like living in a world made of tissue paper. go to get dressed and inadvertently shred your clothes, open the door and crush the doorknob, go to type a letter and demolish your keyboard. Sure you could learn to control your body but it would be a constant measure of applying the most minimal pressure to everything your interacted with. What about when you are sleeping? you would need to sleep in an empty least you demolish your room by the simple act of tossing and turning in bed.

    Invulnerability comes with the uncomfortable side effect of looking like the unwashed masses before long. As a man your hair and facial hair would be impervious to haircuts and shaves. Even coming your hair seems unlikely as you would likely destroy your comb in an effort to pull through any knots or kinks in your hair.

    I am sure there are tons of other undesirable side effects, those are just the two that jump out at me.
  8. May 28, 2014 #7
    Broken superpowers can be a good comedy routine, but if you want them serious they can be fixed fairly easily.

    Ultravision: You see in 10 or 20 primary colors that are all opaque to different things. Or you have some sort of mass awareness that doesn't rely on line of sight.

    Invisibility without blindness: The light doesn't pass through you - instead you recreate identical photons on your opposite side.

    Super strength: Your strength is normal unless you consciously will it to be greater.

    Invulnerability: Similarly, you can turn it off at will, or it doesn't apply to hair. I believe it is canon that superman uses his laser vision to shave.
  9. May 31, 2014 #8
    "Has any body ever heard things like if you could see through everything you wouldn't be able to see anything at all"

    IMHO, not if one can focus his X-ray or whatever vision to a certain area.
  10. May 31, 2014 #9
    X-ray vision that requires high amount of background radiation.

    Ability to create fireball in your hand, while still being vulnerable to fire.

    Precognition visions that makes you scream out of terror and are absolutely unrelated to you (you just know in advance about death of some irrelevant guy on next continent that you can't avert).

    Ability to kill someone with one thought.

    Ability to change in to animal (and having IQ of that animal in that form)
  11. May 31, 2014 #10


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Static Shock's power is sort of dangerous. I think he should technically get a heart attack everytime he discharges all that charge i.e his superpower
  12. May 31, 2014 #11
    One more idea: superhero who is so tough and strong that his semen would beat any contraceptives? :D
  13. Jun 1, 2014 #12
    Superman can have laser eyes, he can have active X-ray vision.
  14. Jun 1, 2014 #13
    That would be even better power - causing acute radiation poisoning or increasing risk of cancer among his acquaintances. :D
  15. Jun 1, 2014 #14
    I dont think it cant be turned off, directed, or set to a proper power level to scan through the wall.
    You wont get cancer from a few standard X-ray scan.
  16. Jun 1, 2014 #15
    From normal X-ray scan? Or for the version, where instead of small does going straight through object, a big dose would have to be sent in order to a tiny part be reflected?
  17. Jun 1, 2014 #16
    How tiny part can be reflected from bones?
  18. Jun 1, 2014 #17
  19. Jun 1, 2014 #18
    I doubt that "X ray vision" is meant to be taken literally. In the first Superman movie, Superman is able to tell something's color with it - you could not do this with real X rays.
  20. Jun 2, 2014 #19
    I think that doing that literally would perfectly fitting an example of cool superpower with limited pratical use. :D
  21. Jun 2, 2014 #20


    User Avatar
    Gold Member


    Edit: how would that mirror hold up I wonder?
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  22. Jun 3, 2014 #21
    SUPER mirror!
  23. Jun 4, 2014 #22


    User Avatar

    Its made of the same super material as that Laptop. I have seen that gimmick used in other shows, where the character has super speed and uses it to type a thousand page book in a few minutes. Problem is that speed translates into kinetic energy so at that speed you are imparting the equivalent of an automatic carbine on your laptop.

    Must be an IMB tough book.
  24. Jun 4, 2014 #23


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Ah, I didn't notice that stuff with the laptop.

    So his hair is less invulnerable than his skin?:wink:
  25. Jun 4, 2014 #24
    Super power requires super control. Also, the ability to type with one hand is important on the internet.
  26. Jun 5, 2014 #25
    From Calvin and Hobbes:

    Calvin's Dad: Is her superpower being able to fit into that costume?

    Calvin: Nah, they can all do that.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook