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The Engineer's Notebook

The Engineer's Notebook is a shared blog for entries that don't fit into a specific CR4 blog. Topics may range from grammar to physics and could be research or or an individual's thoughts - like you'd jot down in a well-used notebook.

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Truly Superhuman

Posted May 08, 2013 10:56 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: superhero superhuman top 5 video

When you sit in the (hopefully-not 4D) movie theater this summer on a 100┬░ F afternoon and consume the latest superhero-saves-the-action-genre blockbuster, I ask you to consider the inspiration for each of our supernatural protagonists.

Man of Steel, due out June 14, portrays Superman as a noble hero fighting an alien invasion. Yet Superman is rooted deep within the progressive politics of the Great Depression: his first foes were crooked politicians and slum lords. The Wolverine will be released a month-and-a-half later, and it chronicles Wolverine's time spent in Japan - a world away for a young Canadian from the frost-bitten Yukon. Last weekend, Iron Man 3 was released. In this instance, we have a billionaire in an impervious metal suit, but he has personal issues ranging from alcoholism to marital issues to heart problems.

It's often been noted that villains are viewed by audiences as a mechanism of self-juxtaposition. It's why it is so easy to pass judgment on the losers on Cops who get arrested. In no way do viewers feel akin to the 'perps'; instead, they feel sympathetic to the hero. It's the attempt to humanize Superman, Wolverine, and Iron Man which draw audiences even closer to the narrative.

However, if the five following superheroes ever become truly famous, storytellers may have a tough time having audiences relate to them. That's because they're real humans with very real superpowers.

1. Ma Xiangang Conducts Electricity

Ma Xiangang is a Chinese man who is actually rather dim. One day in 1993, the wind blew hard enough in his home city of Daqing to knock electrical lines down near his house. Since it interrupted his favorite TV program, he went outside and began handling the electrical lines with his bare hands…electrical lines that were conducting 220v.

Scientists have agreed that Ma Xiangang has an electrical resistance seven to eight times that of a typical human. Biologically, he has very dry and coarse skin, so his hands act as a pair of insulated gloves. He's demonstrated on Chinese TV the ability to hold a negative wire in one hand, a positive wire in the other, and electrically illuminate a light bulb - turning his dimness into brightness.

Ma Xiangang isn't the only individual to do this. Jose Ayala, in the video at left, is a Puerto Rican man who possesses similar conductivity.

2. Dutchman climbs Everest in shorts

Wim Hof has the amazing ability to control how his body reacts to freezing cold temperatures. Researchers have learned that through meditation and concentration, Hof can control his autonomic nervous system and immune responses. No other individual has the reported ability to do the same things as Hof. Hof is a disciple of Tummo, a type of yoga which stresses the maintenance of an "inner fire." Other Tummo monks have shown an ability to increase their body temperatures as well.

Hof holds several world records and has many cold-related accomplishments. He's climbed Mounts Kilimanjaro and Everest in bike shorts, and he has completed a marathon above the polar circle in similar attire. He holds the record for longest ice bath, and the program Fact or Faked conducted an experiment on him where he held a consistent body temperature and heart rate after 20 minutes in an ice bath. Outerwear manufacturer Columbia has even used him as a marketing technique.

3. The Little Hulk

Liam Hoekstra is pretty normal 5-year-old Michiganian, outside of the fact he has a condition called myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy. This promotes extreme skeletal muscle growth. As such, Liam has almost no body fat and not a single adverse health issue from this birth defect. Liam gets to eat whatever he wants because his body is particularly efficient at digesting nutrients. Liam is 40% more muscular than other children his age, and at age 6 he is dominating the elementary school wrestling circuit. (No, seriously.) Liam was able to walk at 2…days. The more I type about Liam, the more ridiculous these facts seem.

There are some downsides for Liam. He doesn't have the same flexibly or balance as other children his age. His family is also pestered by documentary crews and news stations, and they try to insulate him from negative experiences. He also faces a breadth of criticism based on his appearance, something never helpful for the esteem of anyone, let alone a child. Little Liam won't be spectacular until after puberty, but I'm sure we'll hear more about him very soon. Though a few other individuals are reported to have this condition, Liam is the only one whose identity is public knowledge.

4. Ultra-ultramarathoner

You may recall a 2006 news story about a man who ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days. That man is named Dean Karnazes, and it's just one of many highlights from his storied running career. He's also: run 350 miles in just 80 hours; has won the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race through Death Valley, Calif.; and has run from Disneyland to New York City.

After his 50-in-50 feat, Karnazes underwent medical testing to see what makes him stand apart. Doctors found that Karnazes' CPK levels, a measurement of how much creatine has been consumed, was often five to six times less than a typical athlete. His muscles actually stop breaking down during exercise. Furthermore, his circulatory system contains more blood than average to keep him hydrated longer. Finally, if Karnazes was kept hydrated and fed, he could virtually run forever.

5. Samurai Slices Bullet

Modern-day samurai Isao Machii never actually sees some of his most impressive feats, but that's because it's impossible. Machii has been trained in laido since he was five, and has fortunately provided YouTube with some breathtaking accomplishments. To the right is a video of him cutting an Airsoft round which is traveling at 200 mph.

Researchers believe that Machii possesses an innate sense of physics, because in order to cut something which is near-impossible to see, he must have hand-eye coordination comparable to no one else along with a type of sensory premonition.

There it is; a list of people who truly define superhuman.


Huff Post- - Isao Machii, Modern-Day Samurai...

Cri English - Secret of "Electric Man" Revealed

Ranker - 10 Amazing Real-Life Superhero Technologies

MLive - 3-year-old Liam Hoekstra makes a very strong impression

Wikipedia - Dean Karnazes


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Re: Truly Superhuman

05/08/2013 11:32 AM

The last one, Isao Machii, reminds me of the Zatoichi series of movies. I'm not really a fan of martial arts / samurai movies, but I've enjoyed the Zatoichi movies I've seen. They're set in the Japanese Edo period, in the mid-1800's per the western calendar.

I'll probably go see the Ironman movie, since I like the Tony Stark character. The other ones, no thanks.

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Re: Truly Superhuman

05/08/2013 4:02 PM

I can comment on the cold weather one. As an avid motorcyclist I used to ride all year round in the East Anglian (UK) weather. I wouldn't ride if there was a chance for ice, but I rode in freezing temperatures often. I adapted to the climate and the cold didn't bother me much. Now that I am living in warmer climate, I find myself getting cold more easily again.

If you think about the environment we live in, if we control the temperature around us all of the time our bodies have no reason to fight the cold (or heat). Read about the wild boy of France. He was discovered at approximately 12 to 14 years of age and had been living in the forest on his own from a very young age; so young that he never developed linguistic skills (about 2 years old?). He was found naked and had various scars and showed no signs of having ever worn clothes. He was studied as he grew older and never developed much more language than a toddler, he hated wearing any clothes and would frolic in the snow like an animal who was unaware of the temperature.

Humans have the intelligence and skills to adapt the environment to suit our desires, but I believe most of us also have the ability to adapt to our environment.

Drew K

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In reply to #2

Re: Truly Superhuman

05/08/2013 6:17 PM

Similar experience with dealing with the cold as well. When I am working outside in the winter I tend to have no real trouble working with my bare hands exposed for extended times where other people seem to be literally freezing their fingers off doing the same work for the same amounts of time and when my hands do get cold it only takes a few minutes with gloves on to warm back up.

I just think about turning up the internal fire and sending more heat out to my hands and feet while I work.

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