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7 actual superpowers certain humans have, due to genetic mutation
A lot of the powers found in the comics exist in real life. They’re just a bit different.
If you could choose any superpower, what would it be? Disappointingly, most of us don’t have a mutant gene that allows for superior capabilities. Turns out humans are 99.9% genetically identical. Yet, there’s a lot of variation expressed within that remaining 0.1%. How tall or short we are, what skills we have, our hair and eye color, and even predispositions to certain diseases or conditions, are all encapsulated within our genes.
Lying deep within that tiny fraction of a difference are some really weird and downright uncanny capabilities in some, rare cases. Here are 7 actual “superpowers,” due to genetic mutation. Which of these real-life superpowers would you want?
1. Unbreakable bones
Image credit: Comfreak, Pixababy.
Think Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton is impressive? Well, it is. But there’s a superpower in real life that’s sort of like that, unbreakable bones. The LRP5 gene is responsible for many bone ailments, including juvenile osteoporosis. What's remarkable is, a mutation associated with this exact same gene can have the opposite effect. Yale researchers discovered the mutation among one particular Connecticut family. They have bones that are super strong and extremely resistant to breaking. Understanding this phenomenon may help medical researchers work up a novel cure for osteoporosis.
2. Incredible vision
How many colors can the average person see? The answer: about 1 million. Those with tetrachromacy, however, are estimated to see up to 100 million colors. While most humans have three color receptors in their eyes, tetrachromats, usually women, have four. This is caused by a mutation of the opsin gene.
About 12% of women have it. But possessing the gene doesn’t guarantee you’ll develop the ability. What scientists have noticed is, those who carry the mutation and encounter a number of different colors, constantly, from a young age on, often develop it. Scientists are now just beginning to develop an understanding of this condition.
3. Super strength
Image credit: US Air Force.
Who wouldn’t want to be stronger? Well, those with a mutation in the MSTN gene don’t. Their muscles are already amped up, due to a lack of myostatin—a protein which tells the muscles when to stop growing. Animals who lack the protein often grow large, muscular bodies that contain very little fat. In humans, this mutation allows one to reach a muscle mass double that of the average person and stay muscular, without having to do much to keep it up.
4. Uncanny flexibility
Javier Botet, a horror actor featured in the Spanish horror movie REC. Botet has Marfan syndrome.
Marfan syndrome is a condition, caused by genetic mutation, where a person has less connective tissue than they should. Our connective tissue keeps our limbs, organs, and other body parts firmly in place. Those who have Marfan syndrome often have long limbs, piano fingers, and incredible flexibility.
Javier Botet, mentioned above, has a mild variation, which allows him to put his body into strange poses—making him a perfect candidate for a horror movie. But those with more pronounced cases can experience severe, even life-threatening complications to their heart or other organs. It can also affect the eyes, bones, and blood vessels. Those with a mild case, however, like Botet, usually lead normal lives.
5. Resistance to poison
Image credit: qimono, Pixababy.
Imagine drinking enough arsenic to kill an ox, only to walk away whistling, without any health effects, whatsoever. In a small village in Argentina, the residents call this their daily life. 6,000 of them drink from a water supply laced with 80 times the amount of arsenic needed to kill anyone. This population has been drinking from the same source for thousands of years. As a result, they’ve developed a mutation of the gene AS3MT, which helps push potentially dangerous substances out of the system.
6. Super speed
Image credit: Bago Games, Flickr.
Ever wanted to run incredibly fast? Although comic books powers are overly dramatic, there are folks in this world who display exceptional athletic ability, including running. The mutation here is located at gene ACTN3, also known as the “sports gene.” This involves how fast muscles move, allowing them to flex faster for running and other physical activities. A 2008 study found that lots of top runners and athletes possess the mutation.
7. Perfect memory recall
Actress Marilu Henner explains what it's like to have hyperthymesia.
The brainiac is a troupe in superhero lore that we never tire of. In real life, there are those who remember every detail of every day they’ve ever lived. Know what you ate for breakfast on this date exactly ten years ago? What was in the news? Who did you speak to? What did you do? Those with hyperthymesia can tell you everything. Basically, it can be explained as having a super memory or an autobiographical one. So far, there are 25 confirmed cases. Actress Marilu Henner from the ‘70s sitcom Taxi, is one.
Although it’s assumed that there’s a genetic basis, so far no one has nailed it down. There are certain neurological phenomena that come with the condition, however. Each person with hyperthymesia has a larger caudate nucleus—a part of the brain which helps us process and store memories.
There may also be a strong link between the caudate nucleus and the temporal lobe, an area responsible for sensory input, emotion, language, memory, and comprehension. Those with hyperthymesia often exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviors. In fact, some experts believe the condition may stem from a compulsion to constantly revisit one’s memories.
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From "if-by-whiskey" to the McNamara fallacy, being able to spot logical missteps is an invaluable skill.
- A fallacy is the use of invalid or faulty reasoning in an argument.
- There are two broad types of logical fallacies: formal and informal.
- A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive argument, while an informal fallacy describes an error in reasoning.
Appeal to privacy<p>When someone behaves in a way that negatively affects (or could affect) others, but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior, they're likely engaging in the appeal to privacy — or "mind your own business" — fallacy. Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who speeds excessively on the highway, considering his driving to be his own business.</li><li>Someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe or wear deodorant, but then boards a packed 10-hour flight.</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "You're not the boss of me." "Worry about yourself."</p>
Sunk cost fallacy<p>When someone argues for continuing a course of action despite evidence showing it's a mistake, it's often a sunk cost fallacy. The flawed logic here is something like: "We've already invested so much in this plan, we can't give up now." Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who intentionally overeats at an all-you-can-eat buffet just to get their "money's worth"</li><li>A scientist who won't admit his theory is incorrect because it would be too painful or costly</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "We must stay the course." "I've already invested so much...." "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way."</p>
If-by-whiskey<p>This fallacy is named after a speech given in 1952 by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_S._Sweat" target="_blank">Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr.</a>, a state representative for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi" target="_blank">Mississippi</a>, on the subject of whether the state should legalize alcohol. Sweat's argument on prohibition was (to paraphrase):<br></p><p><em>If, by whiskey, you mean the devil's brew that causes so many problems in society, then I'm against it. But if whiskey means the oil of conversation, the philosopher's wine, "</em><em>the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning;" then I am certainly for it.</em></p>
Slippery slope<p>This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think choosing it would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though there's little evidence to support your claim. Example:<br></p><ul><li>"We can't allow abortion because then society will lose its general respect for life, and it'll become harder to punish people for committing violent acts like murder."</li><li>"We can't legalize gay marriage. If we do, what's next? Allowing people to marry cats and dogs?" (Some people actually made this <a href="https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/cats-marrying-dogs-and-five-other-things-same-sex-marriage-won-mean/dLV9jKqkJOWUFZrSBETWkK/" target="_blank">argument</a> before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)</li></ul><p>Of course, sometimes decisions <em>do </em>start a chain reaction, which could be bad. The slippery slope device only becomes a fallacy when there's no evidence to suggest that chain reaction would actually occur.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "If we do that, then what's next?"</p>
"There is no alternative"<p><span style="background-color: initial;">A modification of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">false dilemma</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, this fallacy (often abbreviated to TINA) argues for a specific position because there are no realistic alternatives. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used this exact line as a slogan to defend capitalism, and it's still used today to that same end: Sure, capitalism has its problems, but we've seen the horrors that occur when we try anything else, so there is no alternative.</span><br></p><p>Language to watch out for: "If I had a magic wand…" "What <em>else</em> are we going to do?!"</p>
Ad hoc arguments<p>An ad hoc argument isn't really a logical fallacy, but it is a fallacious rhetorical strategy that's common and often hard to spot. It occurs when someone's claim is threatened with counterevidence, so they come up with a rationale to dismiss the counterevidence, hoping to protect their original claim. Ad hoc claims aren't designed to be generalizable. Instead, they're typically invented in the moment. <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ad_hoc" target="_blank">RationalWiki</a> provides an example:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It is clearly said in the Bible that the Ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Bob: "A purely wooden vessel of that size could not be constructed; the largest real wooden vessels were Chinese treasure ships which required iron hoops to build their keels. Even the <em>Wyoming</em> which was built in 1909 and had iron braces had problems with her hull flexing and opening up and needed constant mechanical pumping to stop her hold flooding."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It's possible that God intervened and allowed the Ark to float, and since we don't know what gopher wood is, it is possible that it is a much stronger form of wood than any that comes from a modern tree."</p>
Snow job<p><span style="background-color: initial;">This fallacy occurs when someone doesn't really have a strong argument, so they just throw a bunch of irrelevant facts, numbers, anecdotes and other information at the audience to confuse the issue, making it harder to refute the original claim. Example:</span><br></p><ul><li>A tobacco company spokesperson who is confronted about the health risks of smoking, but then proceeds to show graph after graph depicting many of the other ways people develop cancer, and how cancer metastasizes in the body, etc.</li></ul><p>Watch out for long-winded, data-heavy arguments that seem confusing by design.</p>
McNamara fallacy<p>Named after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara" target="_blank">Robert McNamara</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Defense" target="_blank">U.S. secretary of defense</a> from 1961 to 1968, this fallacy occurs when decisions are made based solely on <em>quantitative metrics or observations,</em> ignoring other factors. It stems from the Vietnam War, in which McNamara sought to develop a formula to measure progress in the war. He decided on bodycount. But this "objective" formula didn't account for other important factors, such as the possibility that the Vietnamese people would never surrender.<br></p><p>You could also imagine this fallacy playing out in a medical situation. Imagine a terminal cancer patient has a tumor, and a certain procedure helps to reduce the size of the tumor, but also causes a lot of pain. Ignoring quality of life would be an example of the McNamara fallacy.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "You can't measure that, so it's not important."</p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
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