I'm writing a novel, The Change Storms: Induction (I'm ~60,000 words in, and you can read it for free on my Patreon). The idea is to answer the question "what would the world look like if superpowers were real and contagious?" Answer: there would be no spandex, and there would be a lot of internment camps.

I'm looking for suggestions on superpowers, ideally ones that are physics-based. I have a bunch of ones that run on phlebotinum (one of the main characters has "powerful telekinetic, but only with things that are triangular"), and I'd like to try doing some that are along the lines of 'in a 1L volume, the strong nuclear force becomes repulsive instead of attractant'. I checked that one out over on /r/askphysics and the effect turns out to be "a massive sleet of ionizing radiation that kills everything in the area" so I decided not to do it.

All suggestions are welcome, regardless of their physics ones. Links to similar threads are also appreciated, although I've trawled a lot of such things already.

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    $\begingroup$ Firstly, you do realize that not a single 3D object in existence is triangular, right? $\endgroup$
    – iAdjunct
    Nov 1, 2015 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but "triangular prism with sides that are perpendicular within a tolerance to 2 degrees to both the top and the bottom and all sides between 3cm and 3m and no angle less than 30 degrees" is a bit of a mouthful. $\endgroup$
    – dstorrs
    Nov 1, 2015 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but we don't do Idea generation questions on this site. Please read How to Ask. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Nov 1, 2015 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ I'm going to ask about that one on meta-worldbuilding, dstorrs. We've always had a fine line between idea geeneration and not on this fourm, simply by the nature of the content of world building. There's a lot of grey area, but there's also cases where its sufficiently clear that we just can't make it work. I do want to ask about this on meta, because when I joined, I also was baffled that the rules are not clearly stated. For some SE, that's not an issue. For WB, it might be nice if we were clearer. Good luck in your story! $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 1, 2015 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ Besides what Aify and Cort Ammon said, these suggestions in the question inherently break the laws of physics. They can't be used, because phlebotinum isn't real and the strong nuclear force can't be reversed like you suggest. Additionally, the help center mentions information about subjective questions and links to meta posts about them. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Nov 1, 2015 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


Most "physics" based superpowers would not work they way they do in Marvel or DC comics. Generally speaking, a "physics" based power would allow the bearer to manipulate themselves, rather than the outside world. This is because most of the mechanisms of force and energy exchange in physics are not adaptable to the human metabolism, or would not be able to be "adapted from" an existing human organ or structure. Try to explain how a superhuman could emit gravitons (to manipulate gravity), photons, electromagnetic radiation or "Z" bosons (to manipulate the electroweak force), and you see the problem.

What might be possible (with hands waving at a a large fraction of c) is the ability to use physics to manipulate the chemical reactions in your own body, to make your metabolism much faster or slower, change the density of your bones, neutralize toxins or even perform shapeshifting. This is somewhat along the lines of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood's abilities in Dune.

If you are going to go this route, remember that chemical reactions take time, and the human body needs both energy for input, as well as to release the waste heat of these reactions (trying to instantaneously shape shift could cause heat stroke and death; a person with these powers would have to hide in a bathtub of cold water for hours or days while they adjusted their features, and have a plentiful supply of food sitting on the counter).

So physics based superpowers could be interesting, but if you really want to use physics, then they also have some pretty sharp limitations.


Superpowers are inherently non-physics-based.

Related: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg (Seven Red Lines, all of them strictly perpendicular)

But here is a physics-based "super" power (which is also, to some extent, contagious in the sense that others around him will want to pick it up too):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UpxsrlLbpU (XOS 2 Robotic Exoskeleton)

  • $\begingroup$ Can you describe the videos, to prevent information loss from link rot? Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Nov 1, 2015 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ You really don't want to get with the spirit of the question, do you? First a comment, now an answer. I explained in the original post what "physics based superpower" means and gave a specific example of what I was talking about. In any case, Aify has informed me that 'idea generation' questions are not allowed, so I guess I'm done here. $\endgroup$
    – dstorrs
    Nov 1, 2015 at 16:38

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