Geeks might fly

A massive part of geeky fiction has to do with ordinary people gifted with extraordinary powers. So how do we turn that from fiction into fact?


Wouldn’t life be so much easier if you had superpowers? Imagine how much nicer the morning commute would be if you could fly, rather than taking the bus or the tube. Or, like, if you could turn yourself invisible, you could escape from doing pretty much anything you didn’t want to do…

Usually, at some point, science-fiction does tend to become just plain science. So how close are we to having superpowers?

Invisibility is a good one to kick off with because researchers recently found a way it might, sort of, be possible. They’ve created metamaterials, which are made of something horribly complicated and scary, that could bend electromagnetic waves aroud them rather than reflecting them back. Meaning, effectively, whatever was covered with the material would be rendered invisible, as light would just travel around it. That’s kind of like how the Invisible Woman does it, but with considerably less effort on the part of the invisible person.

Metamaterials might also, at some point in the not-too-distant future, allow people and things to levitate. Apparently, scientists have managed to levitate a frog, which sounds fairly useless, but give it time…

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Another kind of special material could allow a person to deflect bullets. I know, I know, you’re going “what, Kevlar?” Well, no, smartarse. Kevlar’s cool and all, but it’s also pretty bulky and heavy, so it’s not hugely practical for use everyday. However, some scientists have come up with an infinitely more wearable, and much more futuristic-sounding, kind of body armour – they’ve created a gel which is fluid, until something hits it, at which point it hardens and becomes bullet-proof. Kind of like when you mix cornflour and water and make that gloopy stuff that goes hard when you smack it, only much more useful. And futuristic.

Considering that I’m completely obsessed with Spider-Man, I’d also quite like to be able to climb up walls. There was an article in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter about a month ago (the BBC picked it up, which is why I know about it; I have no pretensions to reading proper scientific journals) that suggested a suit could be built, based on studies made of geckos, that would allow men to climb walls. Gecko-Man might not have quite the same ring to it, but it’d be awesome anyway, right?

Okay. So, invisibility, levitation/flying, being able to stop a speeding bullet, climbing up walls… what else is there? Oh, yeah. Telepathy. Well, we’ve got that. It’s called “Facebook status updates” or possibly “Twitter.” And we were better off without it. 🙁