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22 | On the cover
Thursday, June 13, 2013
On the cover | 27
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Exploring Superman’s powers through science
Superman’s abilities have evolved throughout the decades, offering readers even more thrilling adventures. But where
do his powers come from and what are their full magnitude? Are there logical explanations? Let’s explore.
Super hearing
Super breath
Super strength
It has been implied that he
unconsciously extends his
‘aura’ around the objects he is
lifting and moving, making
them lose gravity or inertia
While the exact measure of his strengh is unknown, it is
accepted that he can lift more than 1,000,000 tonnes,
enough to carry two empty Burj Khalifas. In his adventures,
he has moved Earth away from the Sun, the mass of which is
approximately 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000kg
(6 x 1024). Now try to say that number!
His amazing strength is linked to his near-invulnerability.
His bones, joints, skin and muscles are dense. They are
able to resist the pressure of the objects he lifts and moves.
Kryptonian lungs developed larger to
efficiently extract the denser oxygen in their
atmosphere. Superman can store more of
Earth’s thin air in his lungs, compress it
and expel it with extreme force
because of his strong diaphragm
muscles. This process also drops
the air’s temperature, making it
possible for him to blow freezing
air known as freeze breath.
Superman is capable of listening to a wide
range of frequencies and intensities of
sound, which humans aren’t able to do.
He can isolate a sound, like a heartbeat,
identify it and locate it, even if it is
emitted far away.
Super/heat vision
Superman can ‘tune’ the range of his vision
across the electromagnetic spectrum
(radio, infrared, UV, X-rays). He can store,
intensify and reflect infrared light as a direct
beam. This tuning ability helps him determine
heat intensity and project it at varying degrees.
UV X-rays
Gamma rays
The sons of a red Sun
Krypton — according to Superman’s
mythology — is a massive planet
compared to Earth. Life evolved under the
light of a red Sun known as Rao.
The new skin
The Superman suit has been redesigned to offer fans
the best of the classic and the modern worlds.
(Illustrative comparison
from the comics)
After hundreds of designs, the infamous red
underwear is eliminated, it works in the
comics, but not in the movies.
In Supergirl #2,
Lex Luthor is in
possession of a
new ‘Black
Kryptonite’ rock
given to him by
In Superman Legends #14,
Superman rescues adoptive father
Jonathan Kent from Bizarro in
Bizarro World
Symbol used in
Superman #1
Used in this year’s
film ‘Man of Steel’
‘Smallville’, the
TV series which
started in 2001,
ends; it stars
Tom Welling as
young Clark kent;
story focuses on
Superman’s early
adult life
Warner Brothers
releases ‘Man of Steel’, a
reboot of the Superman
movie franchise starring
Henry Cavill as
Superman; the film is
directed by Zack
Snyder of ‘300’ and
‘Watchmen’ fame
According to astronomers, the colour of
the star indicates its temperature and its
age; while red ones are the coolest and
oldest, the light-blue ones are the hottest
and youngest.
The dark blue suit is actually
a high-tech fabric worn under
Kryptonian armours.
The ‘S’ is the emblem
of the house of El,
in Kryptonian, it
means hope.
2000 0C
‘Secret Origin’
intends to be
the ‘definitive’
origin story
In Superman/Batman #46, a
genuine Silver Kryptonite is
introduced; one piece of Silver-K
gets Superman high, a secondary
piece restores his mind
Used in ‘Superman
Returns’ movie
Brandon Routh
stars in the film
Returns’; movie is
directed by
Bryan Singer
A living solar battery
Super flight
Superman’s ability to fly is one of the most
discussed topics over the years. He can control his
flight to reach velocities beyond light speed (299,792km/s).
Here are some theories that may ‘explain’ this miracle.
The old theory: The gravity difference
According to the comics, Krypton had 1,000 times more gravity.
90kg here, would be 90,000kg in the extinct planet. That could
result in extreme freedom of movement. But let’s think about the
astronauts in moon missions, they experienced 1/6th of the gravity of
Earth and their movements were slow and awkward.
Astrophysicist Neil
DeGrasse Tyson
plots real location of
Superman’ planet;
Krypton orbited the
red dwarf star LHS
2520 in the Corvus
constellation; it is
27.1 light-years from
In Superman #698, Superman is held inside
Brainiac’s ship while Brainiac robots attack
residents of New Krypton
The modern speculative theory
Scientists are now studying the existence of sub-atomic particles
called Gravitons, which basically travel in the form of waves while
carrying gravity. If Kryptonians are capable of creating gravitons,
Superman would be able to ride through the waves and fly freely in
any direction.
Superman’s Achilles
heel: Kryptonite
This material is basically radioactive
shards of planet Krypton generated
after its explosion. Across Superman's
adventures, it appeared in different
colours with diverse effects.
Green Kryptonite
This is the most
common form of K, it
weakens Kryptonians
and its prolonged
exposure could be fatal.
Near invulnerability
Super speed
In the comic books, Superman
has run steadily alongside
the Flash (the fastest man
alive) reaching 3,200km/s.
His velocity depends on the
strength of his tissues, notably
his joints which can handle
the friction generated by
moving very fast. Plus, he has
super stamina.
Red Kryptonite
A green K which passed
through a red cloud in
space. This causes random
temporary personality and
physical effects.
From simple bullets, to the
equivalent of a million nuclear
warheads, Superman has survived
everything in his adventures. His
tough skin, his accelerated cellular
repairing and his ‘aura’, that works
as a force field, has been massively
increased by the yellow Sun's light.
The ‘aura’ is the writers excuse
why Superman’s tight suit is
almost never destroyed, unlike
his cape.
Gold Kryptonite
A rare variation of K. It
permanently destroys the
Kryptonian’s ability to
process the Sun’s energy.
It means losing powers.
Let’s focus now on baby Kal-El
and Jor-El, his father, who sends
him to the Earth before Krypton
explodes. He knew where he was
sending his son, a planet with a
more intense Sun and protective
atmosphere rich in oxygen, where
the evolutionary advantages of
Kryptonians could be multiplied
exponentially. The natural
capability of Kal-El to absorb,
assimilate, metabolise and store
the energy of our yellow Sun
is the reason for his amazing
Blue Kryptonite
This is a K variation that
only affects the being
known as Bizarro and is
completely harmless to
5-6000 0C 28,000 0C
Krypton and Rao were closer in proximity
compared to Earth and Sun (149.7m kms).
Krypton’s atmosphere was thin, unlike
Earth’s. That fact changed the course of
their species’ evolution drastically,
pushing them to adapt to greater
amounts of radiation, even if Rao is
‘cooler’ than our Sun.
At the peak of their evolution, the people
of Krypton, thousands of years more
advanced than us, developed a three level
defence system against the deadly red
Sun radiation:
1. A natural bioelectrical field or
‘aura’ a few millimetres around their
bodies as a first line of defence.
2. A denser and more resistant skin.
3. A highly sophisticated cellularrepair system.
This amazing alien race also developed
the capability to absorb certain radiation
from their Sun and synthesised it, this
produced substances that fed them and
boosted their organic functions, similar to
the process of the photosynthesis in
plants. They don’t need food at all to
survive, the Kryptonians can be fed
and powered by sunlight.
Black Kryptonite
The Kryptonian exposed
to this strange kind of K is
split into two entities.
One with good personality
and one with evil.
Images: DC Comics, Warner Brothers, supplied
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