Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Real life superheroes: from fiction to reality

Authored by MHS student Ivin Mckinney
As a child, if there was one thing I loved doing, it was pretending to be a superhero. I would pretend I could fly, use super strength, run at super speed, or even shoot lasers out of my eyes. I would pretend that I could save the world.
However, for some people it is not pretend. They may not be saving the world from evil villains, but they are surely gifted. The U.S. military is building super suits to use in war. A man named Daniel Kish is able to see despite his blindness. A contortionist made the best of his disorder by joining a circus and later became a celebrity.
In the Marvel Comics universe, Tony Stark, the owner of a huge weapon industry called “Stark Industries,” is Iron Man. He wears a metal suit that allows the wearer to fly, shoot rockets, shoot lasers, and gives the wearer superhuman strength. While this suit started off as fiction, it is now becoming a reality.
The TALOS suit in action.
According to Jeremy Bender, Iron Man’s suit and the ‘Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit’, built by the U.S. military, have a lot in common. While wearing this exoskeleton, humans can lift over 400 pounds (the strength of 2-3 people), and It allows the wearers to sprint at speeds of 10mph with little input by the wearer. These suits also have built in sensors that monitor the wearer's heart rate and body temperature. Other models of the TALOS have a liquid armor that solidifies when hit by bullets.
Additionally, the superhero Daredevil from the Marvel Comics universe had his eyes burnt by acid as a child.  He then discovered that he possessed the ability to see with sound and later becomes a crime fighter of Hell’s Kitchen. And as was the case with the Iron man suit, while most people wouldn't expect it, the ability to see sound is actually possible.
According to Michael Finkel, Daniel Kish was born in 1966 with a very aggressive form of cancer called retinoblastoma, a fatal disease that attacks the retinas. When he was 13 months old, he had to have both of his eyes removed. Yet Kish, now in his 40s with prosthetic eyeballs, is able to get around just like any normal guy. He is able to climb mountains, climb trees, swim, and ride his bike through traffic filled streets. As a blind man, he can do all these activities because at a young age he realized he can see sound waves.
Daniel uses a form of echolocation to see with a clicking sound he makes with his tongue. As a kid, he would stand on his porch and visualize each tone and what they mean. Echolocation is the technique that bats and dolphins commonly use.
A diagram of echolocation from ASU School of Life Science
When Daniel clicks his tongue, the noise sends sound waves to bounce to and from himself, and objects around him. Once he hears the sound waves he is able to determine where the objects are. He named this technique Flash Sonar.
Daniel is passing on his gift by teaching other blind people the technique of ‘Flash Sonar’. Additionally,
Lutz Wiegrebe, a neurobiologist at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, found that with three weeks of training, anyone - blind or otherwise - can learn Flash Sonar.
Also from the Marvel universe, Mr Fantastic, while in space, was hit by a “cosmic ray,” according to the original comic by Stan Lee. Everyone on the ship developed superhuman abilities; Mr. Fantastic gained the power to stretch himself like rubber. He can, for example, ball himself up, twist his body, and fit inside of objects much smaller than himself. In Fantastic Four issue #28 by Stan Lee, Mr. Fantastic turns himself into a ball and hurls himself at the X-Man Cyclops to tackle him. While this may seem like a stretch, his powers are more possible than you may imagine.
Fantastic Four issue #28
Daniel Browning, a contortionist, can stretch his body like rubber, twisting himself into a variety of weird shapes. According to Jon Meyersohn and Kimberly Launier, he can dislocate his legs and arms, and his ribs can poke out of his chest. He can also turn his torso to 180 degrees without pain.
Daniel can perform these acts because he has a very rare disorder known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). EDS is a disorder that causes extreme elasticity of the skin, joints, and blood vessels. Only one in every 1,000 people have EDS (Meyersohn). However, he is not suffering. He doesn’t usually feel any pain except for some rare, minor muscle pains. Daniel is actually making the best of this condition.
Daniel Browning... in a ball
At the age of 17, he ran off and joined a circus team. He also has performed at many concerts, trade shows, and colleges, doing tricks like twisting himself and fitting into areas twice as small as himself. Daniel has mastered all these tricks so well that people began calling him ‘Rubberboy.’
His superhero-like ability has been responsible for him traveling around the globe and seeing very amazing people and places. He is currently the host of the show “Superhuman” owned by Marvel founder Stan Lee.
There is a fine line between fiction and reality. These people have brought both of those worlds together and made something amazing. They may not be saving the world, but all have something special. It almost makes you wonder: could there be real life caped crusaders in the future?

Works Cited
Bender, Jeremy. "The Military Is Closing In On Powerful Exoskeleton Technology." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.
Finkle, Michael. "The Blind Man Who Taught Himself to See." Mensjournal.com. Mens Journal, 6 Mar. 2011. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.
Meyerhson, Jon. "Rare Medical Condition." ABC News. ABC News Network, 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.