10 Badass Superpowers Everybody Has
What does it take to gain superpowers? Being bitten by a radioactive spider/turtle/chicken (or violently pecked, in the latter instance)? Emigrating from another planet and finding that the terrestrial make-up of your new gaffe gives you laser vision, the power of flight, and a peculiar predilection for wearing undergarments over your pants? Or perhaps it’s the potent combination of witnessing your parents murdered to death, having oodles of cash, and an inexplicable affinity for bats?
Turns out it’s none of these things. In fact, all you have to do is be yourself.
No, this isn’t some mawky self-help mantra about how ‘we’re all superheroes on the inside.’ Fact is, the vast majority of us are downright average. You can leave that triteness aside; what we mean is, we’re all born with incredible innate abilities – ones we don’t even realise.
Whether God-given or the result of millions of years of adaptive, scientifically-backed evolution (take your pick), the human body comes pre-loaded with a raft of special ‘powers’ which every day do amazing things like stop us from dying. Or even just falling over.
These are the most badass of the bunch.
10. Mammalian Diving Reflex
Think back to your earliest childhood memories. Now think before that. Keep going… do you remember when you were a sort of fish-like creature living in the oceans, millions of years ago? You do, good. That’s the reason we’re all pre-built with an innate diving reflex, despite exchanging the seas for shores many millennia back.
Throw any new-born baby into a wintery lake and you’ll soon see it kick in (before you’re apprehended by the police, anyway). The reflex is triggered as soon as your face comes into contact with cold water. Receptors in the nasal and sinus cavities are engaged, sending a signal to the brain to slow your heart rate down. As a consequence, your body needs less oxygen – meaning you can stay underwater for longer. Obviously, don’t go thinking you can swim forever in the Arctic Ocean – the effect is not proportional to temperature.
9. Your Brain Turns Your Hearing Down
Here’s a random one. When you shout, your brain kind of turns down your hearing so you don’t deafen yourself. Go on: try it. Even if you’re in a crowded office. It’s for science, after all.
According to a 2006 study, it’s all down to dedicated brain cells which effectively place a muffle on your ears, dampening the auditory neurons’ ability to register new sounds. As soon as you stop bawling your head off, the inhibitor switches off, and those complaints of your distracted colleagues will begin to filter back through.
Boffins poking Q-tips in the ears of crickets called this a “corollary discharge,” made possible by communication between motor neurons – involved in generating a loud noise – and sensory neurons, via ‘interneurons’. In nature, these corollary discharge interneurons (CDIs) not only protect animals from their own cacophony, but allow them to distinguish sounds they’ve created from those of possible threats.
Scientists also believe we have these CDIs for other senses, such as touch – hence why we can’t tickle ourselves. Go on, try that too. And good luck finding a new job.
8. You Fight Cancer Every Day
Cancer affects us all. No really. Scarily, our body fights against it every single day.
During cell production, mutations occur which if left can be a source of malignancy. Luckily for most, our immune system performs regular checks to filter these out and destroy them. If left alone, cancerous cells could potentially develop into tumours.
This information isn’t just a cool fact: it also has important oncological implications in devising diagnostic tests to help spot cancers early.
Here’s another way your body fights the disease: When you get sunburn, it’s not your skin cells being damaged by the sun and dying, but your skin cells’ DNA being damaged by the sun and them killing themselves so they don’t turn into cancer. Give them a day off and wear lotion, folks.
7. Breast Milk Is Magical
Breast milk actually changes its composition to meet the individual nutritional needs of the baby(ies) feeding from the breast. For example, if mom is nursing a toddler (who is more prone to short little “drive by” nursings) the child gets more bang for their buck with a full session’s worth of proteins, fats and vitamins in their one minute fly-by the same as a three month old gets in their 25 minute session.
As they get older, the quantity of vitamins, fats and proteins changes as well to meet their individual needs. This is even true if mom is tandem nursing two babies of different ages: the milk actually customizes itself to ensure they both get exactly what they need, and the amount of milk she makes is dependent entirely on how much stimulation she gets (ie. the more the baby nurses at the breast, the better supplied they are. This is why using bottles and pacifiers mucks up someone’s supply: the baby wastes all their suckling needs somewhere else).
Even cooler, the milk makes antibodies for the viruses mom and baby are exposed to and fighting off. It’s like a built-in vaccine that is constantly being updated against the latest bugs. This is the main reason why breastfed babies are better equipped to combat both short term illness and long term disease (like respiratory illness, asthma, allergies, etc).
And it comes in a real pretty container, too.
6. Your Fingertips Can Detect Microscopic Objects
Turns out we all have the magic touch: scientists in Sweden found that people can detect nano-scale wrinkles while running their fingers upon a seemingly smooth surface.
The study marks the first time that scientists have quantified how people feel, in terms of a physical property. One of the authors, Professor of Surface Chemistry Mark Rutland, said that the human finger can discriminate between surfaces patterned with ridges as small as 13 nanometres in amplitude and non-patterned surfaces.
“This means that, if your finger was the size of the Earth, you could feel the difference between houses from cars,” he said.
When a finger is drawn over a surface, vibrations occur in the finger. People feel these vibrations differently on different structures. The friction properties of the surface control how hard we press on the surface as we explore it. A high friction surface requires us to press less to achieve the optimum friction force.
Well, so what? According to Rutland, the discovery allows us to actually design how things feel. So your phone’s touch screen could be altered with vibrations to feel like wood, wool, or… well, who knows where dating apps might take it. We could also make a shampoo that changes the feeling of your hair, of if you’re bald, makes it feel like you have hair! If only…
5. Body Renewal
The idea that the body entirely renews itself every seven years sounds really too good to be true. That’s because it is. But that isn’t to say we don’t have any regenerative powers – they’re just not quite on Wolverine’s level.
Approximately 50,000 cells in your body will die and be replaced with new cells during the time it takes you to read this sentence. We make a new skeleton every three months and a new layer of skin every month.
What’s more, you can lose up to 75% of your liver and it can grow back to its full size, kind of like how a lizard can re-grow its tail, only we manage it with an extremely complex organ. Even more incredibly, if you were to donate part of it to someone else, the transplanted organ would grow into a full liver as well. It’s really the gift that keeps on giving – but one quite difficult to wrap.
It isn’t just pregnant women who have that special glow: apparently, we all do. Humans are bioluminescent, which means we all glow in the dark like star stickers on a kid’s bedroom ceiling.
Unless you have rabbit-like vision, you’re unlikely to have noticed it; the light we emit is 1000 weaker than that which human eyes can detect. And it’s not just us; seemingly all animals do it, thought to be a byproduct of biochemical reactions involving free radicals.
Japanese researchers discovered that volunteers’ bodies tended to glow most strongly at 4pm, and most faintly at 10am, suggesting our circadian rhythm – the body-clock – is a factor in how brightly we shine.
It may not be as extravagant as certain light-up creatures at the bottom of the ocean, and won’t draw any eyes during a black light disco, but isn’t it heartening to know we all shine?
3. Baby Brain Growth
During the first month of life, an infant is learning so many new things that the number of connections, called synapses, between brain cells increases from 50 trillion to 1 quadrillion. By comparison, if the rest of the infant’s body responded with equally rapid growth, it’d weigh 170 pounds by the time it was was a month old.
Researchers discovered that baby’s brains expanded by a staggering 64% within their first 90 days post-vagitus, which is to say from 33% the size of an adult brain to 55% the size in just three months. That’s a heck of a lot going on when it looks like they’re just lying there gurgling.
It was also found that the brains of premature babies grew at a faster rate than those born full-term, meaning the ‘age’ of the infant is inversely proportional the rate of cerebral expansion. Furthermore, different parts of the brain developed at different speeds. The cerebellum – principle for movement – grew the quickest, whilst the hippocampus, mostly involved with creating memories, grew slowest. This explains why babies spend lots of time kicking around randomly, but none of them can ever remember doing so.
2. Your Kidneys Taste Your Pee
You don’t just keep taste receptors in your mouth, you know. The specialized cells that help you detect what is ice cream and what is poison can actually be found all over the body.
These cells have been discovered in places such as your heart, spine, blood and even your kidneys. Let’s just take a moment to be thankful for the fact that we don’t actually experience the taste our kidneys sense in that same way that we do in our mouth, considering that our kidneys are mostly tasting our pee.
Each kidney contains around a million filters with around 1.3 litres of blood pushed through them every minute, and they can produce around 1.5 litres of urine in a day. Every single drop of this pee has to by ‘tasted’ by the kidneys to find out its chemical makeup and keep the rest of the body in balance.
It is thought that these taste and smell receptors all around the body are there to detect everything that goes in, out and around your system, sending signals to the brain to make adjustments as needed. These adjustments could either be “spit that out, it’s poison” or “drink more water, the kidneys are telling me you’re thirsty” (or “bleurgh, I’m so sick of tasting pee”).
1. Standing Up Straight
It might seem as simple as falling off a log, but just standing still is actually a pretty tricky thing to do.
Just to stand on two legs requires the use of over 300 muscles that are constantly making tiny adjustments to keep you upright. Even when you’re stood to attention, you’re never really stood completely still.
The body actually constantly rocks backwards and forwards as it makes corrections and keeps its balance. Your weight is continually shifting from one leg to the other and different muscles twitch, relax and contract – all without you even thinking about it.
No wonder you get tired if you stand up for too long – it’s hard work.
Perhaps the biggest unsung hero of the body, and its incredible ability to stand on two legs, is the big toe.
Despite the fact that you usually never give it a second thought until you bang it on a bit of furniture, the big toe is absolutely vital for retaining balance and propelling the body forwards when we walk. Without it, we’d be keeling over all over the place like badly design action figures.