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8 People With "Real" Superpowers

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We all dream of having some superpower to help navigate life. For instance, I've always wanted to be able to read peoples' minds. To me, that would be the most awesome of any power one could posses. (Okay, maybe I'm suspicious and neurotic, but hey, everyone also has his kryptonite, right?)

Here are eight people who posses some major superpowers. Please note: we're having some fun here in this post. We don't claim that any of these abilities are actually "superpowers" as we've grown used to defining them. When you're done reading, drop a line in the comment and tell us what superpower you wish you had.

1. Super Baby

In 1999, a baby was born in Germany that wowed nurses and doctors. Instead of the usual mushy baby fat, Uberboy, as he's come to be called, sported ripped muscles. The tot's amazing physique was caused by a genetic disorder that eliminates the myostatin gene, which limits muscle development. The boy's identity has been closely guarded, however there are reports that at five years old, he could hold 7 lbs in each hand with his arms outstretched—a feat reportedly difficult for the average adult. Other members of his family also are known to exhibit excessive strength, including his grandfather who is said to be able to lift 330 lbs paving stones single handedly.

Uberboy's prognosis is unknown and his condition continues to be monitored. It is unclear if this genetic alteration will cause his muscle development to be completely depleted at a young age or not. Scientists are hoping that by studying Uberboy's muscle development and the genes that cause it, they will find therapies to help patients with muscular dystrophy—a super commendable mission.

2. The Iceman

Running shirtless and shoeless may not seem like a super human power, until you consider that Wim Hof ran a half marathon 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle where the temperature is nearly -20 degrees and the run took 5 hours and 25 minutes! At one point, the attending physician on the run warned Hof not to continue because she couldn't guarantee that his toes would survive. (They did.) The Iceman practices Tummo, a way of controlling the body's temperature that is usually only mastered by Tibetan Yogi Monks. To add to his records and feats, Hof has climbed Kilamanjaro in 2 days wearing nothing but his signature black shorts. He also broke his own record of the longest ice bath by staying submerged in ice for 1 hour 13 minutes and 48 seconds. Talk about, er, cool! In 2007, he attempted to climb Mount Everest wearing only the shorts, but failed. Not because he was too cold, however, rather because he injured his foot.

3. The Real Aquaman

New Zealander Dave Mullins is capable of swimming underwater for not only record amount of time, but also record distance. In September 2007, Mullins shattered his own record when he swam underwater for 4 minutes 2 seconds, swimming a total distance of 244 meters with a single breath. Mullins, whose specialty is free diving, set a New Zealand record in April 2008 when he dove 108 meters with no oxygen tank or specialized equipment. He's only the fifth man in New Zealand to reach a depth of 100 meters. Mullins trains his muscles to work while deprived of oxygen. This allows him to swim further and longer, but also leads to a build-up of lactic acid in his leg muscles. After a record breaking swim, Mullins requires a few days of recovery, but he's
still pretty super.

4. Super Audiation Boy

Blinded by cancer as a toddler, Ben Underwood developed the ability to "see" using echolocation. By clicking his tongue, Underwood read the sound waves that bounce off of objects around him. He not only could use these reading to navigate around the objects, but could also identify what he was "seeing." This ability allowed him to function like any other teenager. In fact, the only difference between him and his classmates during his freshman year, was that he took his notes in Braille. Underwood taught himself to roller blade, skateboard, and participate in martial arts, all using echolocation. Sadly, the cancer that claimed his eyesight, took his life in January 2009 at the age of 16. Perhaps his greatest super power was taking lemons and making some really rocking lemonade.

5. Incrediboy Wonder

At 6 ft, 280 lbs, Chris Morgan is a formidable teenager who was chosen as Britain's Strongest Schoolboy in 2009. He is able to lift a Ford Fiesta, weighing in at almost a ton. Morgan consumes 5,000 calories a day and works out at least 5 times a week. Weighing only 5 lbs 5 oz at birth, he grew up watching the World's Strongest Man competition each Christmas and aspired to win it himself. Morgan helps out around the house by lifting furniture as his mother vacuums. He credits his amazing strength to his strict regimen of exercise.

6. Zamora


Tim Cridland, better known as Zamora, has been a sideshow phenomenon for decades, able to perform such tortuous tasks as skewering his lower jaw with a sharp rod by sticking it in his mouth and out below his chin. He's also able to cut into his torso to retrieve recently swallowed items. He insists that he's able to perform these tasks through a Zen-like approach that allows him to transcend pain. However, many in the medical community believe that Cridland was born with a genetic alteration that causes him to experience no pain. What's more unbelievable is that he performs these gruesome tricks regularly on tours, day after day, month after month. Talk about super-human stamina.

7. X-ray Vision Girl

Natasha Demkina developed an interesting hobby when she was 10 years old. She found that she could scan her mother's body and describe in intimate detail the location and condition of all of her mom's organs. News soon spread and her neighbors in her hometown of Saransk, in Western Russia, began showing up at her doorstep for body scans and diagnoses. The local children's hospital decided to test her abilities and the girl was able to draw a diagram of one doctor's stomach with a dark area in the exact spot of his ulcer. She also contested the cancer diagnosis of one patient; later tests supported Demkina's diagnosis of a benign cyst. In England, "x-ray" scans of another doctor led Demkina to describe multiple injuries that one of the doctors had received in a severe car crash without any knowledge of the accident, and the doctor was fully clothed! Obviously Natasha's abilities have been questioned. We put this on the list because it's fun, like all the others. To read some of the debunking, check out this post here on LiveScience.

8. Super Healer

In Abadiânia, Brazil, there lives and works a man who appears to have the power to perform invisible surgeries with his hands. My brother has actually made the trip to Brazil to meet this man, known as John of God (born João de Teixeira de Faria in 1942). At 16, while wandering from village to village looking for work, Joao had a vision to go to a local church. It is said that he performed healing miracles there. Although he says he has no memory of this, it established him as a world-class healer. Today, thousands of people visit John of God daily for healing. He performs visible surgeries without any anesthesia (my brother says people have witnessed him sticking his hand in a man's stomach and pulling out a tumor) and also invisible surgeries by laying on hands and also from afar. According to supporters of John, visible sutures have been seen on body scans of those who have undergone invisible surgeries. Again, this one made the list because of all the attention John of God has received (including his own 20/20 segment). My brother was not cured of his ailment, and came home saying he was highly skeptical, as are many people, and that John was nothing but a magician. But he also said that for those who've been healed, John of God's superpowers should not be underestimated. Here's a good post debunking John of God.

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Essential Science
What Is Antibiotic Resistance?
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The news is full of terms like "superbug," "post-antibiotic era," and an alphabet soup of abbreviations including NDM-1, MCR-1 (both antibiotic resistance genes), MRSA (a type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria), and others. These all refer to various aspects of antibiotic resistance—the ability of bacteria to out-maneuver the drugs which are supposed to kill them and stop an infection.

Now, there is concern that we could move back into a situation like that which existed in the early 20th century—a post-antibiotic era. Mental Floss spoke to Meghan Davis, a veterinarian and assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, about some of the potential outcomes of losing antibiotics. "We have generations of recorded history that identify the risks to human society from infectious diseases that we are unable to treat or prevent," Davis warns.

WHY IS ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE DANGEROUS?

If an individual becomes ill due to a bacterial infection, they typically see their physician for treatment. But in the years before antibiotics were discovered, people frequently died from scenarios we find difficult to fathom, including mere cuts or scratches that led to untreatable infections. Ear infections or urinary tract infections could lead to sepsis (bacteria in the blood). Arms or legs were surgically removed before an infected wound could lead to death.

When antibiotics were discovered, it's no surprise they were referred to as a "magic bullet" (or Zauberkugel in German, as conceived by medical pioneer Paul Ehrlich [PDF]). The drugs could wipe out an infection but not harm the host. They allowed people to recover from even the most serious of infections, and heralded a new era in medicine where people no longer feared bacteria.

Davis says the existence of antibiotics themselves has changed how we use medicine. Many medical procedures now rely on antibiotics to treat infections that may result from the intervention. "What is different about a post-antibiotic modern world is that we have established new patterns of behavior and medical norms that rely on the success of antimicrobial treatments," she says. "Imagine transplant or other major surgeries without the ability to control opportunistic infections with antibiotics. Loss of antibiotics would challenge many of our medical innovations."

WHERE DOES ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE COME FROM?

One reason antibiotic resistance is difficult to control is that our antibiotics are derivatives of natural products. Our first antibiotic, penicillin, came from a common mold. Fungi, bacteria, parasites, and viruses all produce products to protect themselves as they battle each other in their microbial environments. We've taken advantage of the fruits of millions of years' worth of these invisible wars to harness antibiotics for our use. (This is also why we can find antibiotic resistance genes even in ancient bacteria that have never seen modern antibiotic drugs—because we've exploited the chemicals they use to protect themselves).

These microbes have evolved ways to evade their enemies—antibiotic resistance genes. Sometimes the products of these genes will render the antibiotic useless by chopping it into pieces or pumping it out of the bacterial cell. Importantly, these resistance genes can be swapped among different bacterial species like playing cards. Sometimes the genes will be useless because the bacteria aren't being exposed to a particular drug, but sometimes they'll be dealt an ace and survive while others die from antibiotic exposure.

And many of these resistance genes are already out there in the bacterial populations. Imagine just one in a million bacterial cells that are growing in a human gut have a resistance gene already in their DNA. When a person takes a dose of antibiotics, all the susceptible bacteria will die off—but that one-in-a-million bacterium that can withstand the antibiotic suddenly has a lot of room to replicate, and the population of bacteria carrying that resistance gene will dramatically increase.

If the person then transfers those resistant gut bacteria to others, resistance can spread as well. This is why it's important to keep control over antibiotic use in all populations—because someone else's use of the drugs can potentially make your own bacteria resistant to antibiotics. This is also why hand washing is important: You can unknowingly pick up new bacteria all the time from other people, animals, or surfaces. Washing your hands will send most of these passenger bacteria down the sink drain, instead of allowing them to live on your body.

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Most importantly, never ask for antibiotics from your doctor; if you have a bacterial infection that can be treated by antibiotics, your doctor will prescribe them. Many illnesses are due to viruses (such as the common cold), but antibiotics only work against bacteria. It is useless to take antibiotics for a virus, and doing so will only breed resistance in the other bacteria living in your body, which can predispose you or others in your household and community to developing an antibiotic-resistant infection. Remember, those resistant bacteria can linger in your body—in your gut, on your skin, in your mouth and elsewhere, and can swap resistance genes from the mostly harmless bacteria you live with to the nasty pathogens you may encounter, further spreading resistance in the population.

Antibiotics are also used in animals, including livestock. Purchasing meat that is labeled "raised without antibiotics" will reduce your chance of acquiring antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are generated on the farm and can be spread via meat products.

Davis notes clients often requested antibiotics for their pets as well, even when it was an issue that did not require them. She explained to them why antibiotics were not necessary. She counsels, "Individuals can partner with their physician and veterinarian to promote good antimicrobial stewardship. Use of antibiotics carries risks, and these risks are related both to side effects and to promotion of resistance. Therefore, decisions to use antibiotics should be treated with caution and deliberation."

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Big Questions
Why Does Having a Fever Make You Feel Cold?
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During fever, why do we feel cold when our body temperature rises?

Nicole Van Groningen:

Anyone who has ever had the flu knows that fever isn’t uncomfortable because you feel hot—it’s uncomfortable because you feel freezing cold. You get goosebumps, you’re shivering, you’re piling on the covers.

Fever, also known as pyrexia, is defined as an elevation in body temperature above the normal range due to an increase in the body’s natural set point. Most people associate fever with infections, but fever can also frequently occur with autoimmune diseases, cancer, drug reactions, and even blood clots. Fever is not a direct result of these conditions, but rather a consequence of triggering the body’s inflammatory pathways. One key member of this inflammatory cascade is a group of molecules called pyrogens, which directly interact with the hypothalamus in the brain to produce fever.

The hypothalamus serves as the body’s thermostat. When triggered by pyrogens, the hypothalamus tells the body to generate heat by inducing shivering, goosebumps, and constriction of blood vessels near the surface of the skin. It even causes a subjective feeling of cold, which encourages behavioral responses to raise the body temperature, like reaching for the covers.

All of these things are adaptive when your body temperature falls below its usual set-point (about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which typically occurs in cold weather. But they become abnormal in the setting of fever, when your hypothalamus signals to the body to raise its temperature well above the normal range.

If pyrogens suddenly disappear from the bloodstream, as is the case with intermittent fevers, the hypothalamus all of a sudden senses that things are way too hot, and tells the body to kick in its usual cooling-off mechanisms. That’s why people sweat profusely when their fever “breaks.”

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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