We’ve all seen the Marvel and DC Universe movies featuring super heroes and villains boasting a wide variety of superpowers from super strength, speed, flying, super senses, invisibility, mind-reading, telepathy, time-travelling, telekinesis, x-ray vision, elemental powers, animal powers, healing and regeneration – the list goes on. Sometimes it’s fun to fantasize about which super powers we would want to posess if we were ever bitten by a radioactive spider or were exposed to a mysterious substance or a ‘mad’ scientist, but those are just fantasies and make for great movie and television plots. In the real world, ‘super powers’ can look very different, but being extraordinary is possible, just not always probable as it depends on a number of factors.

Scientists are now starting to believe that super humans may in fact be real after all, granted that doesn’t mean the ability to control electricity or be able to walk through walls. Some of these super human traits are environmental such as the Sherpa people of the Himalayas who have the ability to survive and thrive at high altitudes, others are inherited genetically or learned and practiced like mental athletes training their brains to memorise and retain extraordinary amounts of information. There are a number of people worldwide who embody these traits and look to convince us that super human abilities are real.

When we think of Spiderman, we think of a guy in a red and blue suit with the ability to shoot webs out of his wrists and scale tall buildings. In the real world, some may think of Alex Honnold, known for his insane free-climbing abilities off even the scariest of rock-faces. Honnold attributes his success in this space to his own brain training in order to maintain a level of hyper focus and concentration while climbing. From great heights to great depths and from free climbing to free diving, the Bajau people of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines can dive to depths of up to 70 metres, and hold their breaths underwater for up to 13 minutes. Scientists believe that some of this ability comes down to an enlarged spleen which in turn assists with the oxygenation of the blood.

Some of the other super human traits that scientists are researching include agility, resilience and mental athleticism. For agility, such as Samurai Isao Machii’s ability to cut a bullet in half with his sword mid-air, or the Himalayan Sherpa’s ability to live and climb at altitudes that others can’t, comes down to both genetics and training. Mental athletes rely almost solely on training in order to perform and there are a number of techniques that can be used to improve memory at any stage in life. While the majority of us may not possess this genetic trait, that doesn’t mean that without the right training, we can’t all be superhuman in our own ways, and when in doubt, you can always be super kind.