Screen science


Could a radioactive animal give you super powers, asks JOHN HOLDEN

WHILE PETER Parker’s superhuman powers were both helpful and a hindrance to his life, it hasn’t stopped us all wondering what superpower we want most.

In Spiderman’s case, a bite from a lethally irradiated common house spider gave him powers such as being able to spin webs and the strength to stop trains.

In reality, a bite from a spider, or anything else, won’t give you the power to do anything except feel pain (incidentally, it is worth noting that spider silk has the same tensile strength as high-grade steel).

But modern biological advances do mean that human beings are stronger and more resilient than ever. If you were to tell someone living in the 19th century that in 100 years’ time people could have 20/20 vision through laser surgery, they would have been astounded.

In 2011 even laser eye technology is old news. We’ve all heard about athletes and body builders taking illegal anabolic steroids and growth hormones to gain superhuman strength. Likewise, some runners and cyclists take illegal steroids to increase the number of red blood cells in their bloodstream, to improve their athletic performance. While such drugs can give greater powers in the short term, they’re also known to cause serious physical damage in the long term.

But you don’t need to take harmful illegal drugs to overachieve as a human. For the aspiring Aquaman (or woman), the dolphin-inspired Monofin is said to help swimmers reach speeds of up to eight miles an hour: twice the speed of Olympic gold medallist fish-man himself, Michael Phelps.

Plus improvements in immunisation mean that many of the biggest killers mankind has ever known are now about as threatening as former X Factorwinner, Joe McElderry. “Influenza used to be a very serious virus and while it still leaves a lot of people in bed – and in some cases it can kill – we know now that giving someone a vaccine is a very effective way of stopping it spreading,” says Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology at from Trinity College Dublin.

“We now have immunisations for diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, tuberculosis as well as treatments for auto-immune diseases like multiple sclerosis and arthritis.” In your face, Green Goblin!