View Full Version : The Mechanics of Superpowers: Part One

February 28th, 2007, 05:54 PM
Not since the "Wild Cards" book series has a storyline about superpowered humans made me speculate how exactly superpowers would work in the real world. So I thought we might discuss the mechanics of each "Super"'s powers and what real-life side-effects such powers might have.

Subject: Claire Bennett
Power: Super-rapid healing/regeneration

Judging from her "death" in episode 3, the origin of Cliare's powers seems to be in her brain stem area. There are several glands in that area, most notably the hypothalamus, which controls metabolism. My guess is that her mutant healing factor is in fact a function of a freakishly fast metabolic rate, which enables her body to replace tissue at a much faster rate than normal. The fact that Claire exhibits no other powers except rapid healing - and the fact that a piece of debris lodged in her brain stem basically reduced her to "normal" - implies that her power is purely biochemical in nature.

There are several obvious downsides to this ability. Firstly, I would guess Claire has an enormous appetite, having to replace nutrients in her body more often than a normal person. The fact that her body seems inclined to restore her to a set default state after injury also raises questions as to whether or not she will grow like a normal person, or whether her body will remain physiologically 17 forever. On the other hand, her metabolism may eventually catch up with her and cause her to age more rapidly. No indication has yet been seen in the show of any of these side effects, so it remains to be seen what, if any, will be the case as Claire gets older.

Subject: Nathan Petrelli
Power: Flight

Nathan ability to fly seems to be purely telekinetic in nature, as he lacks any physiological features that would make him able to fly (ie lighter bones, wings, etc.). Similiar to the pervading theory of how Superman flies, Nathan is apparently able to generate a telekinetic field around himself; therefore he does not so much fly as simply hold himself off the ground telekinetically. The fact that he has been seen "hovering" lends credence to the fact that he is not so much defying gravity as he is "repulsing" the ground.

The main side-effect of Nathan's power is expenditure of mental energy. Flight by telekinesis seems to be a complex process, but Nathan is able to fly almost instinctively with little to no practice or training (it is possible he has practiced at it in secret, but his own attitude toward his powers makes this seem unlikely). The potential for mental exhaustion is great, but Nathan does not exercise his power frequently enough for this to be a serious concern as of yet. It's possible that his short temper and seeming callousness are outward signs of this mental exhaustion, but it's just as likely related to the stress of running a Congressional campaign and keeping his troublesome relatives under control (it's also possible that Nathan is simply not a very nice person).

Subject: Eden McCain (deceased)
Power: Behavioral control through suggestion

Eden's power was not explored in great detail before her death, but we know some things about it. She was able to convince others to do things simply by talking to them. Whether this power was physiological or telepathic in nature was never made fully clear. She was gagged by Bennett in order to keep her from using her power on him, which implies that it is a function of her voice. This may be similar to the subject of "The Voice" explored by Frank Herbert in his Dune novels: that a human voice, with proper training, can hit certain pitches and tones that can actually hypnotize another person to a degree. On the other hand, the Haitian was able to neutralize her power by proximity, which implies a telepathic quality (note that the full nature of the Haitain's powers have not yet been explored). Eden's suggestion to Matt Parkman during their traffic stop had a lingering effect - he was eating donuts long afterwards - so it is not simply a localized effect. This implies that her power was something akin to hypnosis; she can influence the behavior of others through sound alone. The limits of powers were demonstrated in the circumstances which led to her death: a strong-willed person can resist her suggestion long enough to overpower her. This lends further credence to the notion that her power is physiogical in nature: she needs to speak to use it.

The side-effects of her powers were never fully revealed, but we can infer that without proper control she could inadvertantly cause a victim to injure themselves (if we count the online graphic novel as "canon," then we've already seen the result of a lack of control). But Eden always demonstrated great control in using her power - whether through practice or through instinct is unknown - so it is possible that it's quite easy for her to manage.

More to come later when I have more time...

March 1st, 2007, 07:54 AM
Very nice! Please add whenever you can!

March 1st, 2007, 06:35 PM
I can't wait to see how you explain Peter's power.

March 1st, 2007, 07:15 PM
Yeah, me too...

March 1st, 2007, 07:42 PM
Yeah, me too...

Maybe it has something to do with his sense of smell. As far as I know peoples scent is determined partially by their genetic makeup (as well as other factors I'm sure). Maybe people with powers give off certain scents, a different scent for each power, and Peter's body naturally picks up on the persons scent and somehow determines the persons genetic makeup and mimics it. It sounds stupid, but it's the only thing I can come up with without lapsing into metaphysics.

The Ori
March 2nd, 2007, 06:55 AM
I've always though how flight would work in the real world, and unless you have wings and all that crap, I'd also think that its got to do with Telekinesis!

The Ori
March 2nd, 2007, 07:00 AM
Oh yeh and remember that guy who could liqudate objects, he may be seen as a Micro-Psychokinetic/Telekinetic. Having the ability to manipulate even the smallest objects such as molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles!