By Karl Smallwood, Kier Harris
We’ve all dreamed of having superpowers at some point (today), but the majority of us have to accept the sobering reality that preternatural abilities simply aren’t possible. That is, except for some rare cases of real, actual people with bona fide powers that defy explanation (and in some cases practical application).
For instance …
#6. Ma Xiangang Is Impervious to Electric Shock
Ma Xiangang is a man capable of something not many others are or would have a practical reason to be — he can touch live wires filled with scrotum-popcorning electricity and feel no pain whatsoever.
As with most superpower discoveries, Xiangang found his by acting like a braying jackass. One day when his television quit working, he went to go monkey with the fuse box to try to get it to come back on, accidentally touching a live wire in the process. Normally this story would end with people standing around a pine box and telling their favorite Ma Xiangang stories, but instead of white hot electric death, Xiangang felt nothing at all. Rather than praise his good fortune and call an electrician, he decided to touch the wires again. You know, just to check.
“I figured I’d either die or get superpowers. It was pretty much 50-50.”
Even more amazing is that even when touching live wires with hundreds of volts coursing through them (enough to put a horse on its ass), he feels no pain at all. In fact, Xiangang claims it makes him feel energetic, which is almost certainly him. We’re also pretty sure he’s lying when he claims he can give diathermic massages (deep tissue massages done with an electromagnet) using only his hands.
“In a few seconds you’ll feel either an incredible release of tension or a fatal dose of electricity.”
So What’s Going on Here?
Everybody’s reaction to electricity is a little different; it’s influenced by everything from how thick you are, to how moist your skin is, to other changes in body chemistry. Xiangang appears to be an outlier on the high end of the scale. According to testing, he has a resistance seven to eight times greater than the average human being, which grants him the ability to handle live wires without safety equipment, though, again, it behooves us to ask why in the hell he’d want to.
And yes, there are supposedly more people out there with abilities similar to Xiangang’s. If you watch the first minute or so of this video, you’ll see Jose Ayala pass electricity through his body and use it to burn paper. Again, we question the purpose or application of such abilities, and we’re curious how many times he’s accidentally incinerated his mail because he was holding it when he turned on his porch light.
#5. Dean Karnazes Can Run Forever
Dean Karnazes is an American long-distance runner capable of inhuman feats of endurance, such running 50 marathons in each of the 50 states … in 50 consecutive days. Which he totally goddamned did. He’s run a marathon on every continent twice over and run 350 miles nonstop over three sleepless nights.
“That lake had better back, because I ain’t stopping.”
Back in 2007, Dean attempted to run from New York City to San Francisco, but had to stop in St. Louis, ravaged by disappointment. That is to say, this man has such a level of endurance that running 1,000 miles is disappointing to him. Karnazes has such an impressive list of achievements that when Time magazine listed him as one of their 100 most influential people of 2007, stopping his cross-continental run short was pretty much the only negative thing they could come up with. Then Karnazes completed the very same run in 2010 in 75 days and shut Time right the hell up.
Dean Karnazes, shutting Time magazine the hell up.
Somehow he’s managed to stop running long enough to write three books. That, or he hangs a typewriter from his neck and smacks the keys with his chin midstride.
So What’s Going on Here?
Everything about Karnazes’ body makes him a finely tuned running machine. A medical study was performed on him after he completed his 50-state marathonapalooza. First, they measured his CPK number, which shows the amount of damage your muscles sustain from exercise. So for instance, a normal runner’s CPK would be through the roof after a marathon — around 2,400. Karnazes’ was found to be at 447 … after 25 consecutive marathons.
“Anyone else feel like hitting the gym, maybe doing a little kayaking?”
The study found that his muscles not only damage much less with exercise than the normal person’s, they actually get used to continuous exercise and stop being damaged altogether, sort of like if Wolverine were a perpetual motion machine.
The study also found that he has more blood in his circulatory system than the average person, which allows him to stay more hydrated for longer and may or may not indicate that he is a day-walking (day-running?) vampire. But finally (and most impressively), they concluded that as long as he can keep himself properly hydrated and fed, he could potentially run at a seven- to 10-minute-mile pace forever.
Giving Dean the rare ability to go full Gump.
#4. Stephen Wiltshire Has a Perfect Visual Memory
Stephen Wiltshire can look at a city once and draw it from memory. So can we, big deal. The thing is, Wiltshire’s drawing will actually look like the city, with every single building in its exact place and perfectly sized in proportion to real life. Buildings, windows, arches, doorways — almost every detail is precisely correct in size and placement. Once again, he does this from memory. We, on the other hand, searched the Internet Movie Database five times in one hour because we kept forgetting Ray Winstone’s name.
Above: A guy who doesn’t need to set aside a half hour per day to find his keys.
Wiltshire has been drawing his entire life. His first words were “paper” and “pen” (which really throws his folks’ parenting skills into question, if you think about it), and he’s been traveling the world for 25 years on a continuing quest to draw different cities and landmarks, like if Caine from Kung Fu and Bob Ross collided in a time tunnel.
For instance, Wiltshire took a brief helicopter ride around New York City and produced this drawing afterward, purely from memory:
$5 to the first person who spots .
And he doesn’t just remember these landscapes long enough to do the drawing. He retains them, possibly forever.
So What’s Going on Here?
Wiltshire is an autistic savant (yes, like Rain Man). Autism hinders certain parts of the brain from communicating with one another, which can lead to difficulties with learning and processing information. But, this lack of communication between parts of the brain actually helps give Wiltshire his ability. It’d be sort of like if you had some kind of defect in the muscles of your arm that allowed it to only perform a perfect kung fu chop to the neck. It’d suck for everyday tasks like eating or working, but over the course of your life you’d get so good at kung fu neck chops that you could behead a man.
“One time, I sketched a skyscraper in half.”
So take Wiltshire’s helicopter ride — most of us would be distracted by things like the noise of the chopper, or by thoughts such as “Why are these buildings spaced like that?” or “Is that a body in the East River?” But Wiltshire’s kung-fu-chop brain can focus like a microscope on just the details, carefully recording them all at the expense of all other normal thought. Because of this, he is not only able to notice relationships and properties of the buildings, but can remember them exactly and use them later in his drawings.
His clouds are kinda half-assed, comparatively.
#3. Kim Peek Remembers Everything
“Anyone up for a stirring monotone recitation of Finnegan’s Wake?”
One reason he was able to put away so many books is that he could read them two pages at once, one page with each eye, because apparently that’s something you can do. It is claimed Peek had an eidetic memory, or photographic memory, something that people aren’t even sure actually exists. However, if it does exist, Peek is probably the best case for it, reportedly being able to recall 98 percent of everything he ever experienced in perfect detail. To compare, most of us can’t recall 98 percent of the previous goddamned sentence.
Peek’s story was also the inspiration for the film Rain Man. However, when someone asked Peek to read a book on gambling (which would have taken him about 30 minutes), he told them that using his powers for gambling would be “unethical.”
In your face, Hoffman.
So What’s Going on Here?
Many assumed Peek was, like the guy in the last entry, an autistic savant, because Americans think “autism” means “Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.” This wasn’t the case; Peek’s incredible ability is believed to have come from a congenital birth defect, which resulted in increased memory capacity. This is another way of saying he memorized everything, including the 12,000 books we mentioned earlier and sports statistics spanning decades. For a given person’s hometown, he could tell you all highways leading to it, the county, area code and ZIP code, television stations available in the town, the name of the local telephone provider and any notable local history.
Throughout it all, Peek only wanted to share his gift with the world. His father and caretaker never accepted anything in exchange for Peek’s appearances, except for the joy Kim felt when meeting other people. When Dustin Hoffman met him to research his role for Rain Man, he was quoted as saying, “I may be the star, but you are the heavens,” presumably before Peek told him his future and levitated out of the room.
Richard Green, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System
And then stole his goddamn car.
#2. Wim Hof Is Cold-Proof
Wim Hof is a Dutch-born man with the incredible ability of being invulnerable to cold, which he has proven by swimming in ice cold water and being buried completely in ice. You might scoff at this, because you saw David Blaine do the same thing. OK, how about this: He climbed up Mount Everest in a goddamned pair of goddamned shorts.
Tejiendo el Mundo
His testicles have retracted up behind his eyelids at this point.
He has been dubbed “Iceman,” because the Dutch have no imagination. Hof’s ability is so great that even when submerged in freezing water that would pretty much kill a normal human in a few minutes, his body temperature barely drops, and when he climbed Everest (in bicycle shorts, we really can’t stress that enough), he said it was easy.
So What’s Going on Here?
Hof himself claims that his remarkable abilities come from meditation, which sounds like total hackneyed to us, as no amount of thinking can keep your flaccid penis from fusing to a block of ice.
When he stands up, it’s going to sound like baseball cards in bicycle spokes.
Researchers finally got curious and decided to test Hof, and amazingly, they found that he can actually control his autonomic nervous system and immune response through concentration and meditation. In case you’re unclear, that means he can totally control his response to cold, just by thinking really hard.
The researchers stressed that Hof is an entirely unique case, and his ability to basically control his body and the way it reacts isn’t something other people can learn or do unless accidentally exposed to gamma rays or a radioactive comet.
Awww, cheater! He’s wearing sandals.
#1. Isao Machii Lives in the Matrix
Isao Machii is a Japanese man with superhuman reflexes, which he stereotypically uses to do all sorts of amazing tricks with a katana, including peeling an apple and cutting an Airsoft pellet in half in midair.
The following video is from a show that is very, very Japanese, but it showcases many of Machii’s abilities quite well:
Here’s the uncanny thing to consider — Airsoft pellets travel at roughly 160 feet per second. That’s too fast for the human eye to even register, let alone pinpoint in order to bisect with a goddamn sword.
So What’s Going on Here?
Machii isn’t seeing the pellet with his eyes: He’s sensing it in some other way. Here’s what clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula has to say about him: “This is about processing at an entirely different sensory level, because he’s not visually processing this. This is a different level of anticipatory processing …”
“It’s also a different level of salad preparation.”
We can all sort of do this, obviously — catching a ball when somebody throws it to you requires you to anticipate where it’s going. A baseball player, with practice, gets so good at it that he can hit a fastball coming in at 90 mph. But he’s still doing it by sight — years of practice have taught him that the trajectory of the ball can be predicted by how it looks leaving the pitcher’s hand. The difference is that Machii’s brain is wired so that he can hit things that are moving too fast to see.
According to the expert up there, Machii isn’t even sensing the pellet at all. He’s anticipating where it will be and when it will be there. That basically makes him a Jedi.
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