Super Powers You Don't Actually Want: Super Speed
Who among us hasn't imagined what it would be like to fly among the stars? To be faster than a speeding bullet? To deliver a punch stronger than justice to an evil-doer? We all have at some point wondered what it would be like to be a superhero, and the purpose of this series is to console you and or crush your dreams. Take solace in your regularity, and be thankful you aren't unlucky enough to gain these debilitating superhuman abilities. First up?
Super speed has really gotten a boost in profile as of late. With the growing popularity of The Flash and Quicksilver, everyone is realizing how badass it would be to be a speedster. I mean who didn't watch this scene in X Men Days of Future Past and wish they could be that awesome?
First let's kick things off by saying it is possible for a human to move on their own at super speed! The human brain regulates bodily functions on a 24 hour cycle or a circadian rhythm. For this reason we all react and experience things at the same rate and time, but say you were to enlarge the area of the body responsible for this, the suprachiasmatic nucleus. If enlarged, you could in fact increase the frame rate in which your body sees, reacts, and moves by as much as 10 times the average human being! Given that Usian Bolt was clocked running at 28 mph in a 100 meter dash, that's pretty fast, but it can come with some nasty consequences.
So let's say you drank a uranium-infused energy drink that enlarged your suprachiasmatic nucleus, got violently ill, miraculously avoided death and/or terminal illness, and boom - you now have super speed. You jump out of bed on your first day and decide on a quick run to work because you're super fast but OMG you're always running late. You take your time getting ready knowing it'll only take you a minute to get to work and boom you're out the door. All your papers scatter violently and the force at which your shoes connect with the carpet ignites a spark which sets your apartment on fire. You don't notice this as you are already miles away chugging along with your newfound speed.
Wow, being fast is great. You're zooming in and out of traffic, past people, and you think "this would be super cool if anyone could see me right now." You decide to jazz it up and sprint up the side of an multi-story office building because who doesn't think that's badass? You're flying up the side of the building when suddenly everything feels super heavy, and holy s*** you can't see anymore. You black out and fall off the building to your death. Too bad, so sad.
Vertical G Force is going to be your biggest obstacle to cope with as a speedster. Astronauts and air force pilots regularly undergo training for the effects of the Earth's gravity on mass acceleration to prevent disasters such as this from happening. Luckily horizontal G Force is much more forgiving on the human body and you shouldn't experience many problems running at ground level.
Okay, let's "Choose Your Own Adventure" this and pretend we didn't mean to turn to that page and we weren't really going to run up the building. You're bounding along the sidewalk at 300 mph having a blast and boom - a fly collides into your eye. You were so busy flourishing and vaulting the large things you had no ability to dodge this little guy and now you are blind in your right eye. Your pain and agony cause more havoc as you no longer pay attention to your direction and you collide with a little old woman. You both are obliterated on impact with blood and guts flying everywhere.
This is going to be a serious issue as a speedster. Any direct collision you have traveling over 60 MPH is going to be fatal. Granted, your reaction time is going to be super heightened so most of the time you're going to be able to dodge a lot of things that seemingly look like they are standing still, but it only takes one mistake to end your life.
*flips back a few pages to fly colliding with eye*
You realize you could hurt someone in your blinded state and throw on the brakes. Your shoes disintegrate and you collide with the pavement and die. Super healing does nothing as you die on impact.
Surprise surprise, you can't come to a sudden stop. You'll need ample time to decelerate for however fast you'll be traveling. Stopping on a dime will cause you to flip over yourself and likely kill you and trying to do anything other than slow down will destroy the soles of your feet.
*flips back to beginning of adventure*
So unlike literally every origin movie you've ever seen, this isn't a trial and error situation. If you are going to have super speed, you must be prepared or you will die. So you contact your local S.T.A.R labs, get a ballin' suit from Cisco, and hopefully most of your scenarios above will become non-existent with the proper amount of training. In fact, out of all superhuman abilities, super speed is the one most attainable for the human body if you are conditioned for it! It's a shame you won't be around too long to witness your own greatness, however.
That's right, with great power comes increased aging and early death. Expanding your suprachiasmatic nucleus not only increased your reaction time, it also drastically shortened your lifespan. Past age 18 you'll begin to age at nearly double the rate of others. You'll look 40 in your early 20s and not too long after that, gain leg and muscle pains severely impeding your ability to walk, much less dash at high speeds. That's all assuming you can maintain a 200,000 calorie a day diet to keep your body from devouring itself. Not a great way to live in my personal opinion.
Sorry to crush your dreams, but super speed isn't all it's cracked up to be. On the upside, it is far from the worst super power to have bestowed upon you, as we'll go into in future articles. Until then!