Just something that's been kicking around in my head for a couple of years.


2. Nolan

This is partly about me, Nolan MacRae, and partly about my friends, and our familiars of course. Obviously. But I don't think we're all that important in a wider sense.

Let me explain what I mean.

Before I got into science, I was big into superhero comics. I still am, because I just love the art. I sketch my own characters, and fight scenes, which I'm not particularly good at, and I'm a bit of a geek about lettering and typefaces.

Still, a couple of years ago during the Flu outbreak, I was laid up in bed for three weeks and nobody could go and get me any new comics because of the curfew, so I was stuck re-reading all my old ones, and in between the fevers and the vivid dreams, I had a realisation.

From the point of view of a story, superpowers are a terrible idea. Especially the big absolute ones, like how Superman is invulnerable and more or less infinitely strong. What can't he do? Well, whatever the writer needed to stop him doing so the story would work. Superman isn't actually all that important a character in those stories, as a character I mean.

I got bored with it all.

But you know, you can look on youtube any day and see people with pretty amazing skills. Like that Japanese guy who can play two electric guitars at once. He has them supported on stands or something, and taps onto the strings like he's playing two keyboards. Not exactly a superpower, but maybe a little less, maybe a sub-power?

Here's why that's amazing: what's the point of it? Impressing the ladies, I bet. But I give you, again from the world of science (I did say I was into that): Isaac Newton. I'd like to pretend I know anything at all about calculus, it being a big old axe in the science toolshed, but really it doesn't stick in my head. I can follow along how it works when Mr Calvin is explaining it (again), but by the time I'm doing the exercises at the end of the chapter, it's just gone.

Totally respect folk who can do it. Isaac Newton invented it from scratch out of his own head, with nobody around to explain it to him.

And that's as close as I can get to an example of a superpower in real life. A real improbable event; a power there is no need for a human to have. Most monkeys, when they see an apple fall out a tree, they go "cool, free apple, eh". That one monkey went "cool, gravity" and just invented calculus.

Closest the world has seen to a superpower maybe, until after the Flu died down. For some of us, the vivid dreams didn't go away.

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