6 People With Superhuman Powers That Science Can’t Explain
Science has become exceptionally advanced, delivering incredible technological advances and amazing breakthroughs in fields such as medicine and chemistry. But there are still many things that science cannot explain, and some of these things lie within our own bodies.
One of the most compelling mysteries that science has not yet solved is the apparent superhuman abilities of some people. These abilities are both physical and mental, ranging from an apparent ability to regulate internal body temperature through sheer force of will, to the ability to recall an entire landscape from just a quick glance.
These are six of the most interesting “superhumans” who possess abilities that science has yet to fully explain:
Wim “Iceman” Hof
Wim Hof is a former world record holder for submersion in ice (at one hour and 52 minutes) and has also climbed Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts. While he’s mostly known for his adventures in the cold, he has also completed a marathon in Africa’s nearly-deserted Namib Desert without drinking any water along the way.
The things Hof has accomplished shouldn’t be within the bounds of normal human physiology, so naturally there has been some skepticism about the legitimacy of his abilities. To settle the question, Hof went on the SyFy show “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files” in 2012 to settle the question, sitting in a tank full of ice with EKG leads and an internal thermometer attached to him. He stayed submerged for a little over ninety minutes, emerging with his core body temperature and heart rate unchanged during that time.
Science still can’t explain how Hof is able to do these things, but he has been studied. A 2012 study of Hof published in Psychosomatic Medicine concluded that he has the ability to directly influence his autonomic nervous system through an effort of will, lowering inflammation throughout his body and raising his cortisol levels whenever he wishes. Why Hof can do this and nearly everyone else on Earth can’t is still a mystery.
Stephen Wiltshire has become the world’s most famous architectural artist thanks to his ability to draw anything he has seen in great detail after just one look at it. He’s literally a walking example of a photographic memory, but he’s unique in that he can express that same detail outside of his own mind. Wiltshire displayed his talent for art early, beginning to sketch animals and cars in detail at the age of five.
Wiltshire was diagnosed with autism, and art was his primary form of communication as he struggled harder than most children with learning to speak. As he grew older, his passion switched to landscapes and buildings, which he has gone on to become renowned for.
Wiltshire’s photographic memory isn’t limited to just “snapshots” of one location or perspective. He frequently draws detailed panoramas after viewing them from a helicopter. His longest drawing is a complete panorama of New York City, which is currently on display at JFK Airport and stretches 250 feet.
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Daniel Tammet has an amazing memory especially for numbers. His abilities are roughly comparable to those of Dustin Hoffman’s character in “Rain Man”, but even more impressive. He has won or placed very highly in a number of memory championships, and is the European record holder for reciting pi. His abilities aren’t just limited to numbers, however. He speaks ten languages and was able to become conversational in Icelandic as an adult in just one week.
There are a number of autistic savants that possess comparable abilities, but Tammet is unique in that he is very high-functioning and communicates fairly easily with other people. He is able to explain what he is thinking in a way that savants were never able to previously.
Since he communicates so well, Tammet has been studied more than any other savant in history. Studies have found that his ability to memorize words and numbers is twice that of the average person, but his ability to remember faces is significantly worse. A particular portion of his left frontal cortex that is more active than it is in most people may be the key to his abilities.
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Tammet does not believe that he has supernatural abilities, however. He has written papers expressing his opinion that any person can train their brain to function at the level of a savant, and has even developed some language courses in French and Spanish.
The 1970s TV series “Kung Fu” popularized the idea of Chinese Buddhist monks as warriors with seemingly superhuman combat abilities. While actual monks usually don’t fight nearly as much, some Buddhist monks do have a history of amazing endurance and focus. For example, some monks in the Himalayan Mountains who were studied in the 1980s were able to raise the body temperature of their fingers and toes by 17 degrees and have been captured on video sleeping through a winter night on a peak with only a wool shawl. Monks in India have also demonstrated the ability to suppress their metabolism to less than half its normal rate simply through an effort of will.
Science still doesn’t have a clear explanation for these seemingly superhuman feats, but they are thought to be connected to the monks’ regular practice of mindfulness meditation. Buddhist monks generally meditate by trying to empty their mind of any thoughts for as long as possible. There is thought to be some possible connection to mastering this skill and being able to directly influence the autonomous nervous system, in a similar way to what Wim Hof is able to do.
Uri Geller Uri
Geller is one of the most famous and visible “superhumans”, making a public career out of his abilities and becoming a well-known celebrity. He has also had his legitimacy questioned more than just about any other “superhuman” figure, with some critics insisting that everything he has done has been nothing more than a set of parlor tricks. People in high places have been convinced by Geller’s abilities, however. The U.S. Air Force commissioned a study on psychokinesis and teleportation in the 1970s, including Geller among people believed to have been observed controlling objects with their mind. The study was initially classified but has since been released to the public.
Geller himself has admitted that much of what he has done over the years has been “entertainment.” While stage magicians have been able to reproduce many of his tricks, Geller still maintains that he has psychic powers, and he appears to still have believers in high places.
Ingo Swann is a self-proclaimed psychic who was at the center of the “remote viewing” phenomenon. He was the co-creator of the term, in fact, along with a pair of psychology researchers who tested him in the mid-1970s as part of a classified research project. What military researchers were after was a way to remotely see what enemy forces were up to. Swann himself specialized in out-of-body experiences and posted extremely accurate scores in coordinate remote viewing tests. Most of these test results have not been released to the public, but the results of his very last test are available and reveal that he was correct 7 out of 10 times and was only completely wrong on one attempt. His brain waves were also recorded while remote viewing and significant changes in brain activity were noted.
Swann’s abilities remain controversial, however. Following his successful military experiments, he had a short career as a psychic consultant for detectives, at which he was wrong in 22 out of the 25 cases he worked on. Nevertheless, his successes in testing cannot be completely discounted as a trick. And the truth will likely never be known, as Swann passed away in 2013.
Powers In Action
This documentary by Vice follows the exploits of Wim Hof on his cold-weather adventures across Europe.
And in this video, you can see Stephen Wiltshire in action as he draws a panorama of the Singapore skyline from memory.
Even if science isn’t able to explain the nature of these superhuman abilities, science has at least verified that many of these amazing feats are not tricks or fraud. In time, we may learn exactly how they work, and how we might even be able to undertake these incredible efforts ourselves.