How many of us, at one time or another, have dreamed about having a super power—to fly like a bird or possess X-ray vision or even have the slings and arrows of ordinary life harmlessly bounce off of us?
Or admire those among us who seem to have superhuman powers like the basketball player who leaps in ways that seem to defy gravity, or gymnasts that contort their bodies into impossible positions, or moms of newborns who survive on seemingly no sleep?
The question that lingers is this: Are superpowers only available to fictional comic book characters or the ultra-rare human with natural abilities that appear granted by the divine? Or are they becoming increasingly available to all of us through almost unimaginable breakthroughs and discoveries in science and technology?
Our guest on today’s episode of In Search of Lost Mojo, Dr. Paul Zehr, is the man to ask.
He is professor of kinesiology and neuroscience at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. He’s well-known in the scientific community for his work on the neural control of human locomotion—how the arms and legs interact during walking—and how the brain’s ability to adapt is associated with rehabilitation in stroke victims.
But he’s best known to the general public as the author of a trilogy of popular science books, all using superheroes as the basis for investigations into the future of human performance.
His 2008 book, Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero, is essentially a guide for understanding how the human body works and responds to exercise.
In 2011, he published Inventing Iron Man: The Possibility of a Human Machine, exploring what it would mean to the human body, and the nervous system in particular, to use an integrated exoskeleton like the Iron Man suit of armor.
His latest book, Chasing Captain America: How Advances in Science, Engineering and Biotechnology will produce a Superhuman, demonstrates the medical and scientific possibilities of recreating an entirely new human by radically altering their biology.
Paul is a regular speaker at conference and comic conventions and has written extensively on exercise, science, and superheroes in publications such as Scientific American, Men’s Health, and Popular Mechanics. He’s practiced and taught martial arts for over 25 years, and is a double black belt martial arts master. It’s his study of martial arts that he attributes to getting him interested in science in the first place.
In this episode, we talk about the genesis of his superhero trilogy, the promise and perils of the science and technology that can enhance human performance, and why everyone can always get a little closer to being superhuman.
Please enjoy this super episode of In Search of Lost Mojo with Dr. Paul Zehr. After the show’s over, check the show notes and all of our other interviews at timzak.com/podcast.