1
$\begingroup$

We are all familiar with Superman´s heat vision: an intense light beam (generally red) that can burn and melt most of the solids it crosses.
My question is: ¿Is it possible for an organism (naturally evolved or genetically engineered) to produce a light beam like that somehow? Specifically: a focused intentionally directed light beam (within the visible spectrum) able to melt a piece of copper (let´s say 1,000 degrees C).
I am writing a short story where all the persons in the world have some super power. Yes, I know it has been a recycled topic in many stories, but I want to put on it more science than fiction, so I would like to include (if possible) some valid organic justification to explain the heat vision (no bionics or artificial eyes).
Thanks!

$\endgroup$
2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Heat vision is also incredibly impractical. Besides that it can heat up your eyeball, if it's a visible beam from the side you also blind yourself. Because if it's visible from the side, it interacts with things so the light redirects in different directions. Including backwards. So you'll not be able to see what you're looking at, nor the surroundings. Not to mention that eye movement is generally erratic, with the exception of tracking. But even then you might not look perfectly at a target, as just ahead can be just as fine. $\endgroup$ – Trioxidane Jun 15 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ "We are all familiar with Superman´s heat vision..." False assumption :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 15 at 16:49
7
$\begingroup$

so I would like to include (if possible) some valid organic justification to explain the heat vision (no bionics or artificial eyes).

Pour massive doses of handwavium.

High concentration of energy are usually a poor match with living systems. And having something capable of producing a light powerful enough to melt copper sounds like that.

Moreover, quoting this What if

You can't use lenses and mirrors to make something hotter than the surface of the light source itself. In other words, you can't use sunlight to make something hotter than the surface of the Sun.

it's evident that you can't melt copper with a light source whose surface temperature is lower than that. Again, copper melts at 1084.62°C, a temperature where no life is possible.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Multiple light sources are still a possibility. How many eyes does this organism have? $\endgroup$ – Hukk2010 Jun 15 at 7:43
1
$\begingroup$

I'll make an argument against based on conversion efficiency. Let's say that the efficiency of Superman's heat vision is ~50%, around the efficiency of good industrial lasers today. That means for every kilowatt of energy delivered in the beam, a kilowatt of energy is being lost as heat. And where does that waste heat go? Right into Superman's head and body. It would be like standing inside of a microwave oven (about 0.9 - 1.2 kilowatts), which wouldn't hurt Superman because he's Superman, of course, but would cause him to heat up fairly rapidly.

Add to that that biological systems are usually far less efficient than synthetic systems and the problem is even worse.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.