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Science fiction vs. science factWhether you're looking to scale skyscrapers like Spider-Man or wish you could have Wolverine's amazing powers of self-healing, researchers are devising ways to bring extraordinary abilities to the average mortal, and some of these amazing technologies may make you feel like a real-life superhero.
Flying exosuit | Superhero: Iron ManSlide 2 of 21
Flying exosuit | Superhero: Iron Man
A British oil trader has fashioned himself into a real-life Tony Stark, by building a jet engine-powered exoskeleton suit that lets him take flight.
Richard Browning created the exosuit by combining three sets of miniature jet engines and attaching them to his arms and back. He controls his speed and direction by changing the direction of the engines' thrust using only his upper body. There is no other steering mechanism.
The exosuit lacks some of Iron Man's fancier features, such as superhuman strength and repulsor rays, but it does allow Browning to fly for up to 10 minutes. In early experiments, Browning was able to soar 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters) above the ground at about 5 mph (8 km/h), but he said he thinks future prototypes could fly at speeds of up to 60 mph (100 km/h) at altitudes up to 330 feet (100 meters).
But, being Ironman doesn't come cheap. Browning said his prototype costs about $250,000.Slide 3 of 21
Self-healing | Superhero: WolverineSlide 4 of 21
Self-healing | Superhero: Wolverine
Wolverine's amazing mutant powers of self-healing may seem impossible for the average human, but the experimental research arm of the U.S. military is developing tiny implants that could indeed help humans heal themselves. (Although maybe not from a duel with Lord Shingen.)
The Electrical Prescriptions Program, or ElecRX, seeks to develop miniature implants that would continually monitor a person's physical condition and provide electric stimulus to any systems in need. The devices are so tiny they can be implanted right at nerve endings with a needle — unlike today's more invasive technologies — making treatments more targeted.
The implants could be used to treat painful chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. Alas, they won't give you Wolverine's remarkable longevity…Slide 5 of 21
Run fast | Superhero: The FlashSlide 6 of 21
Run fast | Superhero: The Flash
If the idea of owning a jetpack isn't cool enough, imagine one that can help you run lightning fast, like a real-life Flash.
This battery-powered jetpack, worn like a backpack, helped one speedy test subject shave 20 seconds off of his mile time — already an impressive 5 minutes and 20 seconds.
The technology was originally developed as part of a DARPA program looking to find ways to make soldiers move faster on the battlefield, and now researchers are trying to help athletes improve performance.
"This is the future of where the jetpack is going," Jason Kerestes, a graduate student of engineering and robotics who leads the project at Arizona State University, told Live Science. "We feel that if we can enhance that technology, we can get somebody who can run a five-and-a-half-minute mile down to a four-minute mile."
Whether you use your newfound powers of superspeed for good or evil, however, is up to you.Slide 7 of 21
Invisibility | Superhero: Invisible WomanSlide 8 of 21