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The Science behind Superman


the Shadamaun
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This is an honest, academic question posed to anyone who has some advanced knowledge in various scientific fields and a little knowledge/interest in Superman. THIS IS NOT A THREAD TO DISCUS SUPERMANS COMIC BOOK OR MOVIE ADVENTURES! Rather, I wish to know if anyone has any theories as to how the Man of Steel accomplished many of the things he did, and what possible REAL WORLD scientific reasons could exist for his super powers.

To keep this thread focused, I will just pose a few initial powers, and ask if anyone has any ideas as to how they may feesably occur in the real world:

Super Strength: Where does it come from? He isn't noticably bigger than an average human

Flight: We cant, as of yet, produce flight without an equal thrust in the opposite direction of desired travel. He aint jet powered, so what gives?

Nigh Invulnerability: He is flexible, so he isnt really made of steel. As a sub-note, how would he shave? What razor could possibly do the job that a bullet cant?

Excluding Kryptonian descent, or nonsense about different colored suns, how could a man be so super strong, nearly impervious to damage and above all, fly? Perhaps if this thread does well, we will explore other powers like x-ray or heat vision, or super freezing breath (or not even needing to breath in the first place).

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Well lets have some fun here... :)

A human body, or any organism for that matter, is like a machine. No doubt, a VERY complicated machine. It is composed of trillions upon trillions of very complicated molecules who are practicaly machines themselves. Machines in the sense that some of their reaction with their environment molecules actualy creates very precise usable mechnical energy that can is carried out to do various amounts of complicated micromanagement functions that our macroscopic machines could never do. For example, ur blood takes air clumps of air molecules, one clump at a time, and brings them to ALL THE CELLS IN YOUR BODY. That is ridiculous and amazing. :)

Now, in terms of evolution, our body could be A LOT stronger/faster/perhaps even smarter. But, we are like we are more or less cuz it was the most efficient path to reach where we are now. Our composition cannot focus on things such as strength when other things are on such higher property, like: circulatory system, hormonal system, reproduction, healing etc etc.

In the past years nano technology has been pushing so that we too can start building micro machines comparable to those that compose life. Machines comaparable to our machines of today, but trillions of times smaller :). Many discoveries, such as the bucky ball, are leading the way to opening the doors of nano technology to humanity. The bucky ball for example is a carbon compound (C60) that can be organised in various spheric and cylindrical shapes. This cylinders perfect in terms of symmetry. They are extremely solid, but bend at the same time. It is theorized that if trillions of these tubes were aligned into a material... it would be 300 times stronger than steel and 6 times lighter!! This is just the begining of perfect materials and micromachines :)

If superman is a life form. Id have to say impossible. He cant have all the functions required for a succesful life form (breathing, eating, healing, hormones, circulation, blood filtering, immune system, reproducting etcetc) AND his supper abilities. Our bodies are a more or less perfect equilibrium of both.

However, if superman is slightly different than a life form... things could get interesting indeed :). First off, if he has an internal power supply of some sort with astronomical capacities for storing energy, he no longer needs breathing/eating/metabolism/etc, and many of his high-energy requiring tasks become possible. We can give him healing anyways, just because he would not be superman without healing. No need for reproduction, too complicated, wastes too much potential power :P. No growth, he will always be the same size for our purposes.

So basically, you have this artificially created life-like being. He has life-like intelligence, if not much more. He has cells, but these get their power the insane power supply mentioned above. And he has an amount of stored raw material in him he can use to contruct new "cells." Like life, he has different cells. The ones generating his motion are quite different than the near-lifeless ones who gives his skin its near indestructibility.

The more life-like complicated functions you remove, the more powerful he can be by replacing it with more machine-like molecular configurations.

In the end. The perfect superman like being is nothing more than a machine. But, he is not your everyday machine, because he is just as complicated as you and I. The complexity and accuracy of his design goes down to the molecular level, just like life itself. Except, unlike life, he does not go for an overall purpose to stay alive and spread. He is ment for kicking some serious ass. And has intelligence/sensory design much much stronger than humans. Assuming you do have that crazy power supply available, the science and capacity to make such a machine, he would kick superman's ass imo. :)

The only tough one... is flight.

Ofc I can think of many ways this being would fly... but how would he fly without us hearing a huge bang or seeing fire? :P

Perhaps it is possible for the surface of a material to have a very complexe nano-technological design that acts like trillions of molecular mini-propelors/wings/jets that would not be noticeable to the human eye that would make him fly. Who knows! :)

If not, **** it, but big jets on em, he has an infinite power supply after all. :P

HAHAHahahahahahahaha.... ^_^

This is just me randomely speculating, dont take any of it too seriously at all... but at the very least, I hope I entertained you and opened your imagination to the future of micromachines and nano technology ;-)

In any case, I can assure you with farely high certainty that there is no valid macroscopic explanation for superman to do all the things he does. But as for micromachines... We are just starting on them, and their potentiel is already ridiculous. For example, the power of the c60 material... or an even more obvious example, the workings of life itself.

PS: if u are interested in bucky balls, c60, they are also called Fullerenes I think. You can look it up, they probably have some info on wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminsterfullerene

The guy who discovered them (and got a nobel for it too: Harold Kroto) did a lecture series here not too long ago.

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Very informative. But that was more an explanation of how a cyborg (in the sense that he has human and nanomachine componants) superman would function. I was more wondering how an organic superman (he was born, after all) could do these things.

On flight: maybe he can control his gravitons?

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Very informative. But that was more an explanation of how a cyborg (in the sense that he has human and nanomachine componants) superman would function. I was more wondering how an organic superman (he was born, after all) could do these things.

On flight: maybe he can control his gravitons?

In terms of how he is constructed, my machine is equally or more complicated than life. But you are right indeed right in claiming he is not, because he is missing a few crutial criteria in order to be considered "living." I'm not 100% sure what the formal definition of life is, but I know some of these criteria include growth and reproduction.

An organisme that require these 2 things needs a whole tone of other things concequently: growth requires cells, which requires delivery of nutirents to each cell, which requires eating, a metabolisme, etc etc etc...

Because superman looks well... exactly like a human, i guess it would be reasonable to think of him as being a human, and then thinking of what modifications we can do on a human so that it is more powerful, but still a life form nonetheless.

First of all, he could have an extremely powerful metabolic system. Life has a low one relatively, because high metabolisme basically means: you dont eat enough, you die. Which is not good for survival. But this superman lives in a modern world where food is plenty. So he has a super metabolism (more than any human physically can). I guess we could assume this means he eats A LOT, and i mean OMFG A LOT. And his cells reproduce really fast and die really fast (so he has to shower or clean himself somehow often i suppose :P). This would give him super fast healing ofc. Our bodies are made in a way that we have low alert modes, and high alert modes (such as being "on adrenaline"). Him and his high metabollism could function on a constant high mode, seeming his goal is to be ultimate and consume/produce too much energy, not be at equillibrium efficiency like us.

If we bring some of the nano tech into this, I suppose parts of the cell walls could be made of some of the "machine-like supper materials" (like fullerene) making each idividual cell much stronger than human cell. But this would be in a completely organic way. He would have some sort of process that creates this stuff, just like he creates all the rest of his cellular materials. The main key is that his metabolism must be off the scale so that he can have really complicated and not efficient (but rly powerful) capacities. This combined with mass energy producing super-dense muscles, and a much better brain and more accurate set of input organs.

The problem with this model is that he is pretty damn powerful, but he is hard to sustain (not as stable and cool as the cyborg). He must be eating tons of food everyday (including inhaling tons of air). And his cellular composition would be completely different from ours, because his inside body temperature would be like 100+ degree celcius, at which point I dont even know if life-like molecules can even exist anymore, let alone do their functions properly. :P

The point is, even in this super-human version of superman,

he will be powerful, but he is probably weaker than superman sadly. His only chance is with riciculously enhanced and dense muscle tissue combined with an insane metabolism and dense energy cells. But in this case, i dont even know if life can exist at all (because of high body internal temperature mostly). In other words, it might be LITERALY impossible for life to achieve superman-like capacities. However, maybe its not. But if it is somehow possible, his body composition would be so far from what you consider human , that it wouldnt really be like the normal-guy superman anymore... He would literaly be a "different kind of life." Not at all alike like anything on, or that has ever been on, earth.

As for the flying thing again. Impossible to control gravitons. As far as I like going into the imaginative side of these topics and speculate quite a bit, Im not gonna go against 200-300 years of concrete emperical evidence. :)

So I still dont have an answer for the flying, but you can try again if u have more ideas and ill say if i think its possible or not. ;p

For example, all flying machines we've ever done function of low mass density. This super metabolic organic superman i designed will most likely weigh like a few ****ing TONs or more... so unless, you wanna strap massive jets on his back, i dont see any options that would make him prance into the air like if he had the weight of a fly. :P

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Oddly enough, we were disscussing SUperman in Physics class today, haha.

You know, if regardless of how strong Superman is, he wouldnt be able to hold back something like a jet or train, just by standing infront of it and pushing.....he simply wouldn't have enough weight to create sufficient frction to stop it.

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What if he was standing on the ground, braced in front of the train, and in addition to pushing and standing, he flew down and toward the train; effectively forming a wedge of force. He could then add whatever amount of force he can exert in flight to the force exerted to stopping the train AND keeping himself from being pushed back.

Plus, every time he tries something like that, he always slides along for several hundred feet to slow the train, not jar it to a complete stop.

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If superman cannot fly and he is just a really strong/indestructible person, then he is right to claim he would have a hell of a hard time stopping a train. The train couldn't hurt him ofc, but as soon as the train hit him, he would just go flying because of his lack of mass compared to the train.

If you assume superman is indestructible/superstrong AND that he can fly like he does.

Then whatever mystical force makes him fly several times faster than the speed of sound in any direction he wishes more or less instantaneously should be quite enough to stop a train and then some.

I suppose one unrealistic part in how its depicted is that the front of the train would get completely dented in and crushed if superman stops it too fast, because of the force/area where superman's hands or even body touches the train. But if the tran is stopped over a reasonable length (not because superman cannot stop it faster, but because he does not want to kill everyone in the train), then the train should be more or less Ok.

But once again, flight like he does is impossible as far as we can tell. But if you assume it is (just cuz its superman), then stopping the train should cause no prob for him.

Another thing, is that superman cannot possibly weigh the same thing as a normal human... or else he would probably have our same composition/capabilities as we do. Who knows how much he truely weighs? His overall body composition would need an enormous density if we want him to be superstrong/nigh indestructible. What if superman does weigh as much as a train? Or more?

Ofc this brings in other problems, like why does he not crush in the ground with every step he takes (due to the pressure of his enormous weight applied to the small area of floor under his foot)? But then again, maybe he artificaly makes himself lighter by "constantly" using his "flight skill" upwards.

As long as we ignore that his flight skill makes no sense, and that we just take it for a given... then he can do pretty much anything, seeming the flight skill is like the skill to create a gigantic force vector out of nowheres like magic :P

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if it were an airplane coming downwards at him he would b able to stop it cuz the earth would stop him from being pushed back but for a train he wouldnt b able to because of the energy the train has which as SpeedOfDark said would send him flyin...i think superman is a really cheap superhero cuz all the others have like 1 power but he has almost them all

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We allegedly hope to find life somewhere in the galaxy someday. We keep hearing how scientists are speculative of the shape life might take that was influenced by factors different than those found on our planet. So why would we expect to encounter life the same as we know it when it was propagated under alien rules.

Since we haven't found life outside of Earth to compare, we have no reason to conclude that we would know what is and is not possible.

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if it were an airplane coming downwards at him he would b able to stop it cuz the earth would stop him from being pushed back but for a train he wouldnt b able to because of the energy the train has which as SpeedOfDark said would send him flyin...i think superman is a really cheap superhero cuz all the others have like 1 power but he has almost them all

Superman was the first 'modern' superhero he was the beginning.

Superman could stop a train and has...As for his powers as I said he was the first. When it comes to Superman one has to consider that even though he may have extreme powers, it was that character that revolutionized all heroes.

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We allegedly hope to find life somewhere in the galaxy someday. We keep hearing how scientists are speculative of the shape life might take that was influenced by factors different than those found on our planet. So why would we expect to encounter life the same as we know it when it was propagated under alien rules.

Since we haven't found life outside of Earth to compare, we have no reason to conclude that we would know what is and is not possible.

Exactly what I was going to say. ;) Since Superman is in fact an alien life form, he has undergone an evolution most likely completely different than our own. Since we can't possibly understand something we know nothing about (without research), it is impossible to say that he could not possess said powers. Somewhere in this topic, it was said that "assuming Superman is human..." Well, he is not human, so that is that.

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Flight for the organic superman would be impossible unless he uses his super strength to rocket him self in to the air. Hell it would push him so hard so fast threw the air flying is just a waste of time. I don’t know whether or not he can survive the drop or if the ground would let him take of because of the ground collapsing under his feet as he pushes off.

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It might be helpful to clarify rather this is the Superman from his earlier comics or the Superman of todays fame. Originally, Superman could not fly. Instead, in the earlier comics, he was merely able to jump, (leap tall buildings in a single bound).

In one of the books, it is explained that his people lived on a world with far greater gravity than on earth. After millions of years of eolution, they had developed stronger more dence muscles than humans. On Earth, he was able to jump higher and run faster than humans because of his Kryptonian genetic heritage. Flying was an invention of the early serials with George Reeves. The Yellow Sun business developed at some other time, probably after the orignial writters lost control of the concept.

Bullet proof? I would assume the dence mucles again.

Seeing through walls? Once again, on Krypton, every thing was far more dence. On earth, the radiation that passes through walls is enough for him to see with. Notice, he can't see through gold or lead, atomically dence metals.

Why only Krypton radiation affects him? It has to do yet again with the dencity of his home world. It was only possible to form the little green crystals in the ancient past of his home world because of the increased gravity. Sort of like, until recently, it was very difficult to make our own heavier elements.

As alluded to in a recent post, alien evolution leads to alien lifeforms.

Two Jewish boys living in New York City around the depression probably never concidered the fact that asphault, which was hard to them would crumble under Supermans footsteps, let alone him trying to "take off". If they had been better students in science class, we would never have had Superman and possibly none of the other "super heros" that followed.

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Here are some of my thoughts. Superman could simply be a supremely efficient energy converter.

Invulnerability:

Not dead or super strong skin cells. The cells in Superman's body (all of them) have an ability similar to that used in kinetic-reactive armour plating. However, rather than using reactive energy from an internal source (such as the shaped charge within the armour plating) he is able to utilise the energy from the impact, effectively nullifying the force.

This enables Superman to retain normal flexibility. It is only on impact that 'hardening' occurs. His suit is the same except artificial.

The energy transference also applies to non-impact energy (fire, radiation, etc.) As the energy from these is not impact, his body doesn't have to harden as it does for impact attacks.

Flight:

Allowing for the energy transference above, Superman could simply let the mass of the Earth (for example) push him away. Given conservation of momentum even a miniscule transference of momentum from Earth to Superman would impart incredible velocity.

Super Strength:

Again, Superman's ability to utilise external energy and transfer this to achieve the result allows for feats of great strength.

So, Superman needn't possess innate super strength, a mystical flight capability or extremely dense cellular structure. So long as he has the ability to use the energy from the interactions all these abilities can be adopted at need.

And energy is conserved! The Laws of Physics are not broken.

PS: I can't explain x-ray vision unless Superman has the ability to control the quantum nature of matter.

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O.K., most every thing that Leonardo said about reactive forces plus what I said about his X-ray vision and there is your superhero in a nut shell, huh?

I'd never thought of that reactive forces concept. I just went with what the bok said. It made sence to a seven year old Lord Umbarger. (I guess that I was "MASTER Umbarger" then though, huh?).

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