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I’m particularly amused by the fact that you also need a pair of glasses to make it work.

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Is it a real superpower?

In a strange twist, mere days after I talked about prosopagnosia – the inability to recognise faces – I came across this article about people who have the opposite ability.  These police officers have the highest rate of recognising people from CCTV footage, by quite a long way.

Scientists investigating it had to devise harder face recognition tests, because the standard ones weren’t hard enough.  They concluded that these people are about as good at recognising faces as prosopagnosia sufferers are bad – in the top 2% of the population.

Of course, with my tendency to take things to extremes, I would like to propose something that surely must be an actual superpower.  The ability to recognise faces before you’ve seen them.

You might say that this is merely a facet of precognition, and you might be right, but it’s very specific.  So specific, in fact, that it would fit right in with Shovel Man (who can do anything, as long as it involves a shovel) and Invisible Boy (who can be invisible only when nobody is watching).

There are people among us who have a remarkable superpower.  They never forget.  Literally, they can remember what they were doing on a specific day 10 years ago as easily as they remember a month ago.

This video from the New Scientist gives just a few examples of this superpower.  Amazing.

What would it mean for the world if everyone remembered in this level of detail?  Would we gain a new perspective on history and be nicer to everyone?  Or would we all sink into despair because we remembered the bad things as well as the good?

Yesterday, we discussed going “out of phase” and falling to a horrible doom at the centre of the Earth.

Today, I want to talk about superpowers.

I have often seen Superman catch falling people mere inches from the ground.  At that height there isn’t enough space for him to absorb the kinetic energy without killing them. I’m not the only one to notice this:  Ben Tippet’s Unified Theory of Superman also mentions the problem, in addition to being a pretty entertaining read.

Now, there are ways of getting around the problem.  If Superman’s invulnerability extends a few inches from his body, then anyone he catches would be automatically protected from the damage of a sudden stop.  This has the added advantage that it protects his clothes, explaining why they don’t burn off during fiery rescues.

But wait, you say.  What about when he punches people?  Wouldn’t they be protected from damage too?

Yes, they would.  But only in the instant of the punch – they have no protection from being thrown into a wall, and it is that which causes them harm.

As you can see, some scientific problems can be worked around with the suitable application of other science.*  All it requires is a little creative thinking – and that’s what we all claim to be good at, right?

 

* Whistles innocently and hopes nobody noticed that auras of invulnerability extending a few inches from the body aren’t actually very scientific.

The trouble with science is that sometimes it gets in the way.  Take for example a popular science fiction trope – going “out of phase”.  In essence, the protagonist has a gadget or a power caused by radiation or some similar thing, and they become able to pass their hands through solid objects.  Sometimes nobody can see them, sometimes it only works when they want it to.

Pretty useful, right?  You can stick your head through walls to check what’s on the other side, get into places that are locked, and if you’re invisible you can listen to all sorts of conversations that you shouldn’t.

However, the problem with it was ably demonstrated by “Wormhole X-treme”, an episode of Stargate SG-1 in which Martin Lloyd, an alien TV producer, has started a show based on the secret government project.  In this scene, one of the actresses is questioning him and the director about her character’s plot.

REESE Ah I’m having a little trouble with Scene 27. It says that I’m out of phase which means I can pass my hand through solid matter or I can walk through walls.

DELUISE Yeah. Cause you’re out of phase.

MARTIN Exactly.

REESE How come I don’t fall through the floor?

Martin and Peter stop. They look at each other and then back to Reese.

MARTIN We’re gonna have to get back to you on that one.

Floors (and ceilings) are made of matter.  If you can’t interact with it, then one of two things should happen.  Either gravity still affects you, and you fall to the centre of the Earth, where you are trapped forever, slowly starving to death (because you can’t interact with the hot magma on the way, so you don’t die, and you can’t interact with food either), or gravity doesn’t affect you, in which case you go spinning off into space as the Earth continues its orbital path.

In either case, the outcome is not good for you.

 

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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