Engineers have now produced two devices that will bring to life Superman’s x-ray vision and Spider-Man’s ability to crawl up walls.
American troops fighting in Afghanistan won’t wear the cape, but like Superman, they’d soon be able to see inside of buildings and detect the heartbeat of people trapped underneath rubble. That’s thanks to the Eagle handheld scanner, manufactured by the company TiaLinx. It sends out low-power, wideband radio-frequency signals and measures how the signals bounce back. The handheld receiver then decodes the signals and creates a picture of what’s happening 20 feet behind a concrete wall or 10 feet underground.
Spidey’s wall-crawling feats will also become reality with the use of a new suction device. Inspired by beetles, which can cling to a leaf with a force 100 times their weight (see above), the mechanism uses the surface tension of water to form adhesive bonds and may inspire sticky shoes or gloves that could one day have us climbing the walls.
A prototype that could support the weight of a human still needs to be created, however. Currently, a one-inch square device can hold 15 pounds. Here’s a demonstration:
It remains to be seen whether or not heroes in colorful spandex will be saving our cities from crime and destruction. But one thing is for certain: if they do show up, it’ll be thanks to years of clever engineering.