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I want to make a human able to fly, much as Superman or any other superhero can (meaning without wings or any other non-human physical characteristics), but respecting the physical laws otherwise. Said human must not only be able to fly by taking off of the ground, which could be technically considered a jump, but also to stop mid-air, float, and resume flight at will. Bonus points if he also can exert force to lift a heavy object while flying/floating. The only suspension of disbelief must be how he achieves flight, the rest of the physical laws must remain untouched, if possible.

I came up with the idea of the human being able to interact with Earth gravity on a personal level, meaning he would be able to swap the vector of the gravity acceleration on himself so he could, theoretically, "fall" in any direction he wishes, thus somewhat flying.

Would personal gravity be a plausible attempt or can anyone think of a better way to achieve this?

Edit for clarification purposes: I want my character to be as human-like as possible (as in not being recognizable by other humans) and the planet would be Earth or Earth-like.

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    $\begingroup$ Actual real-world humans are perfectly able to take off, stop in mid-air, hover, resume flight, and exert a force to lift heavy objects. For this purposes they use a nifty machine called a helicopter. That's what makes humans human. We use our big brains to design machines to perform just about any magical feat we can think of. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 20 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ Utilizing "somewhat flying" as falling is a bad idea, becase you will do somewhat landing at terminal speed. It is fatal in most cases. "Superman style" flying requires a number of secondary superskills to survive it. $\endgroup$ – ksbes Aug 20 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ @ksbes the idea for decelerating would be to gradually swap the gravity acceleration vector to another direction. My "super" would not be able to fly at 300 km/h and then go to a full stop in one second, he would have to stop gradually. That's what I meant when I said that the rest of the physical laws still apply. $\endgroup$ – Armitage Aug 20 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ I think being able to change your personal gravity is a perfectly reasonable superpower, and lends itself nicely to a limited form of flight. Just make sure you consider all the implications. For instance, does the power affect his clothes? If yes, it begs the question of if they can affect other nearby objects, and you have to be careful with your definitions. If not, then your hero constantly has a downward force vector acting on him equal to the weight of his clothes. While that might not be much, it will create noticeable arcs in his trajectories when he tries to move in straight lines. $\endgroup$ – Gilad M Aug 20 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Armitage, my idea is that this "gradually swaping the gravity acceleration vector to another direction" human need to land sometime. And since the speed he is traveling is terminal one his meeting with the earth is not safe. $\endgroup$ – ksbes Aug 20 at 9:20
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Electrostatic maneuvering jets.

Your character can generate very high voltages, and use these to accelerate atmospheric gas ions away from himself. He is an electrostatic nuclear accelerator

An electrostatic nuclear accelerator is one of the two main types of particle accelerators, where charged particles can be accelerated by subjection to a static high voltage potential.

To take off he ionizes the air then accelerates the ionized air as the equal and opposite direction to his flight vector. Because he can produce many of these acceleration jets he can hover, maneuver in midair and so on.

The jets he produces push against the air in his environment. As would be the case with anything moving fast through the air, this would make a lot of wind. The ionized gas would be hot and would react with substrates that it hit. There would be a lot of ozone and so he would have a characteristic smell. Additionally, the charged ions produced by his flight mechanism might equilibrate through the air - large sparks and lightning would occur in his vicinity when he was flying.

This would not work in space. Not sure about underwater.

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  • $\begingroup$ This just might be it. I'll leave the question unanswered one or two more days and, if nobody comes with a better solution, I'll mark yours as the accepted answer. $\endgroup$ – Armitage Aug 21 at 10:54
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We already can fly and hover and carry things while in flight. It is called swimming and what makes it possible is our physical relationship to the medium in which we swim, water.

We are only slightly more massive than that medium and within our chests we keep two large sacks of a gas which is substantially lighter than that medium, so with lungs fully inflated (with air) we are more or less buoyant. And with a little kicking or occasional waving of the arms, we can increase our upward vector more than enough to carry our clothing and some measure of other heavier-than-water objects.

This viewpoint offers us a couple of solutions to your quest for human flight...

1). On a water world with no gaseous atmosphere above the ocean surface, a human-density aquatic-man can be thought of as flying through the watery atmosphere of the planet.

2). On an earth-like world, a character made of Aerogel might have a reasonably easy time swimming through air, though he would probably need to fill his lungs with helium in order to hover.

As there exists a spectrum of atmospheric densities between water and air, so there exists a spectrum of lightweight materials for you to build your flying man out of. Choose the appropriate material for the world where he wants to live, and he will rule the skies!

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  • $\begingroup$ I like your approach, it's quite original, but for my specific situation I'd like my "super" to be as human-like as possible, and the planet would be Earth (or Earth-like, at least). I'll update the question to reflect this. $\endgroup$ – Armitage Aug 21 at 10:26
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To achieve flight, all you need is force equal or opposite to the force that is causing you to fall. This could manifest itself as a vertical vector which have enough force to life however heavy you are as a human. (This is why swimming in water is possible - water's greater resistance reduces your weight and gives your movement more power.) By shifting this vector around and increasing/decreasing it, you now have the power to fly in directions, hover, go fast, go slow, gently descend, etc. That's the barebones mechanics of what is necessary for human flight.

Now, how to achieve this is really a matter of personal taste. Your 'gravity manipulation' works, certainly (see Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, the Lashing ability of Windrunners), but it has drawbacks (again, see Stormlight Archive). Wind manipulation is also possible (Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart has the titular character Steelheart fly as such), using forces against objects (Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn, see Coinshots, who fly by repelling of metal objects), or possibly even creating a cloud of flying projectiles (Brandon Sanderson's White Sand graphic novel, it's how the Sand Master fly). Or, possibly, they can just straight up fly without needing an explanation (see Superman).

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  • $\begingroup$ Good answers there, might have a look at those book series, I haven't heard of them and, after a quick search, I do find them quite interesting. $\endgroup$ – Armitage Aug 21 at 10:53

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