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Stan Lee's Superhuman

  1. Aug 20, 2010 #1
    So, I was watching some Science/History channel and came across this horrible show. I would have normally flipped the channel because most of what was being displayed made logical sense, and was mere slight-of-hand for the most part. However, in the few seconds the channel was on I witnessed this guy...


    He basically coils a wire around himself and runs electricity through it. From watching the video it is not possible to determine (it wasn't for me at least) whether or not conduit is connected, or whether he is actually using himself as a giant resister of sorts. They imply, that he is acting as a resister, goes blind when the electricity is passing etc. They use the words "through him" alot, but you can never actually be sure the wiring is open. (Which would make a huge difference from what I understand about electricity)

    The part they are testing his "personal resistance" by using a generic digital multimeter seems bogus to me as well. I would think that for a measurement like that, the persons amount of hydration would play a significant factor. When they measure it, they say that it is constantly increasing at a relatively progressive rate. It looks to me like he is tightening/loosening his grip on the leads to achieve this effect.

    I just wanted to know if there was something that I was overlooking.

    Edit: So I am clear, I am talking about the part where he is powering a high-amp hotplate. The other parts with lightbulbs and such seems to be a matter of how much water is in his body.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2010
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  3. Aug 21, 2010 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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    Shock hazard aside, skin resistance is typically in the megaohm range. That means that using a 110 volt supply, he could conduct less than one milliamp - not enough to power anything less very low power electronics [like a single IC chip].

    Note that something around 30 millamps across the heart can kill you. Given that it might well be lethal to grab the hot and neutral of a 110 volt circuit with opposite hands, skin conductivity is not the only thing involved. Still, even very small currents can be deadly.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2010
  4. Aug 24, 2010 #3
    This is charlatanism. If he's a million ohms, then he's not conducting the current.

    He is probably the switch in a bounceless switch circuit. That is, he provides the contact for a low-voltage TTL switch, which then completes the circuit. I noticed that at no time during the ten minutes of watch the video was it clear that the light and hotplate were not directly connected to a circuit themselves.

    About $6 in Radio Shack parts.
  5. Aug 29, 2010 #4
    In the second episode of the series, where the man holds a concrete block on his head, and the second person breaks it with a sledge hammer, did they misstate the explanation? They said the man, who is uninjured, "isn't super" because "there's a trick to it", namely, the concrete block "absorbs" the impact from the hammer. It seems to me that best explanation is that F=ma for the concrete block becomes (large mass)(therefore small acceleration). The smallness of the acceleration of the concrete block makes it have a small final velocity, so the man's head only receives a painless tap. Or is their use of the word "absorbs" correct, because the initial kinetic energy of the hammer becomes the work to break the molecular bonds of the concrete? What's the best way to phrase it when explaining it to others? A teacher in our local high school does a similar demo; he lies down on his back on a bed of nails, with a concrete block on his belly, and then an assistant hits it with a sledge hammer.
  6. Aug 29, 2010 #5


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    I found the human calculator fascinating. I would love to have this skill. :smile:

  7. Aug 29, 2010 #6
    It would be neat... I'd love to have a super power where I could write elegant math proofs without thinking for more than a few seconds.
  8. Sep 3, 2010 #7
    I don't see what's so bad about the show? Superhuman in the dictionary just means having extraordinary ability or power.

    I think it's a cool show. They take people who demonstrate extraordinary ability, and then examine them to try and find the scientific reason they can.

    The guy who can take heavy blows to the head, has a freakishly thick scull.
  9. Sep 3, 2010 #8
    Cinder blocks are strong in compression, and poor in tension. They're also brittle, which makes them easy to chip, fracture, or shatter. When that happens, the impact force simply reverberates throughout the block, and the energy fractures the block, rather than being transferred to the guy's head.

    The key here isn't the force itself, but the magnitude of the force and its duration. When the block is hit fast enough with the sledge hammer the force may be large but the duration is tiny, and it's the force x duration which is imparted to the guy's head, while it's the force alone which, if it exceeds the cinder block's tensile strength, causes the block to break. It's the same issue which allows a shooter to safely impart both momentum and force to a bullet while the target isn't safe.

    On another note, yes - quite cool on the human calculator! Since it's the portion of his brain which controls complex motions, perhaps his brain formulated it's own, abstract version of an abacus. I had a friend in college who learned to rapidly multiply two six-digit numbers in his head, spitting out the answer the moment the second number was given, but he'd learned a trick for doing it which he then taught to me. I was never as good as he was (he practiced a lot) but I could do it, back then.
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