Do superhumans really exist?

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1. The rise of superheroes

Superheroes first caught our attention in the 1930s when characters such as The Phantom, Superman and Batman appeared in American comic books, and we've been fascinated ever since.

According to the Oxford Dictionary a superhero is "a benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers". But have you ever stopped to consider whether superhuman powers are possible in the real world?

We've all heard extraordinary stories about ordinary people doing seemingly impossible things, so perhaps super-homo sapiens are already here, living among us.

2. Batman

Forget the Caped Crusader. There are some blind people who can actually use a type of echolocation known as flash sonar to see the world around them, just like bats.

By making clicking noises with their mouths or by snapping their fingers, they can interpret the sound waves reflected back off nearby objects. Daniel Kish, who lost both eyes to cancer as a baby, taught himself the technique and has shared his knowledge with hundreds of blind people around the world.

This has enabled them to live incredibly active lives – running, hiking, playing basketball, playing football, skateboarding and even mountain biking on tracks that some sighted people would struggle to handle.

3. The Iceman

Wim Hof discovered his superpowers by accident after saving a man from a frozen lake. Since then he's confounded scientists with his ability to withstand extreme cold.

Using meditation, breathing techniques and a strong mental focus, Wim has learned to control his core body temperature.

For his 2011 Guinness World Record he submerged himself in ice for nearly two hours without his core temperature changing. He's also climbed to 22,000ft on Mount Everest in just his shorts and run a desert marathon without a drop of water.

4. The Running Man

The Flash is fast – but is he built for supreme endurance? American ultramarathon man Dean Karnazes can seemingly run forever.

Dean regularly pushes his mind and body to the limits of what is humanly possible – be it running non-stop without sleep for 350 miles or completing 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days.

He's also run 135 miles non-stop across Death Valley in temperatures hovering around 120°F (49°C) and to the South Pole, where temperatures fell to a toe-tingling -40°F (-40°C). In the world of running, his achievements are superhuman.

5. The Human Spider

He can't shoot webs from his wrists, but he can stick to buildings like no other. Alain Robert is one of the best rock and urban climbers on the planet.

Some of his tallest climbs include the Sydney Tower at 1,047ft (319m) and the Eiffel Tower at 1,027ft (313m).

Incredibly strong both mentally and physically, Robert is famous for his free solo climbing, tackling towering skyscrapers without ropes – just his arms, legs and a bag of chalk. One slip and he's dead.

6. Super powers

There are plenty of superhumans around the world with exceptional abilities. Some are self-taught and have honed their skills with years of training. Others are born with unique physiological traits and some are completely mind boggling, leaving scientists baffled. One thing's for sure, superhumans definitely exist.

Professional strongman and wrestler John Ferraro can break and bend just about anything using just his head, which is 2.3 times thicker than the average human skull and one of the thickest ever X-rayed.

The Human Hammerhead

John Ferraro

Scott Flansburg has incredible mental abilities enabling him to perform complex calculations faster than a calculator. MRI scans have shown that, while calculating, he uses an area of the brain normally associated with movement.

The Human Calculator

Alannah Avelin

Isao Machii has developed heightened sensory powers beyond normal human beings, with incredible speed and reflexes. He is able to slice in half a tiny BB pellet fired towards him at 200mph.

Super Samurai

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Joy Milne stunned the medical world when she discovered she could smell Parkinson's disease on people. Scientists believe that changes in the skin of people with early Parkinson's produces a particular odour linked to the condition.

Super Sniffer


History is littered with feats of superhuman strength in times of adversity, but Liam Hoekstra has it on tap. He was born with a Myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy, giving him 50% more muscle mass than the average person and very low body fat.

This image is not of Liam Hoek

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Daniel Browning Smith is the world's most flexible man, capable of dislocating both legs and arms and turning his torso 180 degrees. He discovered his skill aged four by jumping off his bunk bed and landing in the splits.

Rubber Boy

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After a massive electric shock, Biba Struja discovered he could withstand electrical current. Apparently he has two fewer skin layers than a normal person and no sweat glands making his skin dry, so virtually no current flows through him.

Battery Man

Some Tibetan monks can control their skin temperature through meditation and a yoga technique known as Tummo. Studies show they can raise the temperatures of their fingers and toes by as much as 8°C while their core temperature remains unchanged.

Monk Power

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