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Author Topic: "Your brain. Itís so Ö fast."  (Read 6394 times)
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TELLE
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« on: March 31, 2007, 07:58:30 AM »

http://superman.nu/superboy-lives/tomorrows-lesson/

Just read the Sam Hawkins Superboy prose story "Tomorrow's Lesson".  Part of the wonderful archive here at Superman Through the Ages.  It's a great story in the mold of the classic Elliot S! Maggin novels and the only Hawkins Superboy I hadn't read yet.  I know for some of you (Julian) this might qualify as usually-beneath-notice fan fic but I heartily recommend it as very much above average --some of the best short fiction ever written using a corporate-owned comic book character in terms of tone, mood, continuity, and characterization, at least in my (admittedly) limited experience.

The plot involves an early Superboy journey to the Legion future (only his 7th) and a major adventure.  The story fills in several holes in the history of the Legion without really disturbing the published comic book continuity.  And, as in all the Hawkins stories, there are themes germaine to the Superman myth and Superboy experiences some valuable life lessons.  The story is very nostalgic but not exactly syrupy.  A few clunky bits, but overall very enjoyable.  I was almost teary in parts.

I also liked it because of its humour (the title of the thread is a Saturn Girl quote from the story) and softer touches.  And because it touches on some of the things we discussed in the most recent Legion thread about the role of the Legion in Superboy's life and its relation to the adult Superman.  More food for thought.

http://superman.nu/smf/index.php?topic=3397.0

« Last Edit: March 31, 2007, 08:03:24 AM by TELLE » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2007, 08:07:59 PM »

Funny, the same thing clearly stuck in your mind as mine, i.e. the fact that Superboy's brain moves at an insanely frantic pace, which basically makes it very difficult for telepaths to approach him. I liked that, nice touch.
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« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2007, 07:39:31 AM »

Yeah, a good explanation for the Superman family "immunity" to certain forms of mindreading.

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« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2007, 01:22:09 PM »

I never thought of that.  Neat idea. 
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« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2007, 07:32:50 AM »

It's quite likely that even non-superpowered Kryptonians are significantly smarter than humans.  I seem to recall Kryptonian kids studying advanced concepts at relatiively early ages. 

Perhaps Kryptonian brains are more complex than humans, with far more neuron interconnections between areas of the brain.  The major limiting factors would be the speed of electrical impulses and perhaps heat buildup from intense brain activity -- electric impulses have to generate some waste heat, which is then trapped inside the skull.  Bloodflow would assist somewhat in heat dissipation, but one must also assume that hyper brain activity requires more oxygen to nourish the overworked brain cells.  So the circulatory system affecting the brain would be yet another limiting factor on Kryptonian super-intelligence.

But what happens under yellow sun exposure?  Now-invulnerable Kryptonian brain cells can handle activity levels that would literally "burn out" human gray matter or result in massive strokes.  Neurons might even become superconductors, allowing brain impulses to travel without any electrical resistance.  At this stage, the only significant limitation is the speed of light.

However, we've seen Superman perform instant calculations that in theory couldn't be accomplished in time.  Even massively interconnected superconducting neurons couldn't fire fast enough.  So how can Superman do this?  Is it possible that his brain operates FASTER THAN LIGHT?  Or is there a previously-unidentified psionic ability such as precognition that allows Superman to begin figuring out a solution in the back of his consciousness EVEN BEFORE THE PROBLEM PRESENTS ITSELF?   Shocked
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« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2007, 01:17:49 AM »

I like the pre-sentient idea --Superman does often seem to anticipate events, sometimes simply by picking up on body language and being able to move at the speed of light (or speeds between human and speed of light).  The idea that his brain is FTL is intriguing.  In the comics he often travels at these speeds (overtaking light from Krypton, interplanetary travel, etc), meaning his brain would have to keep up.
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« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2007, 04:39:31 AM »

Some very interesting speculation about the mechanisms behind super-intelligence.  I'll have to think about those ideas.  I was reading a lot of cognitive psych around that time [particularly Daniel Dennett's works on the origins of consciousness and Michael Gazzaniga's work on split-brains], and I was intrigued by the notion of how Saturn Girl's powers would work.  Telepathy in comics is pretty much handled as magic, and I was trying to give what she does a more physically-based footing. 

I always thought that the whole super-intelligence thing was by far the most inconsistently written [not to mention under-rated!] of Superman's powers.  At times was inventing incredible gadgets, but at other times he was implied to not be in nearly the same class as Brainiac 5 or Luthor (Elliot addressed this once by having Superman note that Lex forgets that he's "nearly" as smart as he is).  Or Barry Allen or Ray Palmer, to whom he consistently deferred in the science department in JLA.  And another thing...there didn't seem to be much drop-off in his intelligence when he lost his super-powers.  I remember one story [albeit imaginary - Superman 404 or 406, I think] where a de-powered Clark talks about still having the intelligence of his father, who was obviously a great intellect even under a red sun.  [Though that "I'm worried about Kal-El, he's almost 1 and he's not reading yet" line from the classic Superman origin always made me wonder if he'd really inherited his Dad's genius.]  But I don't know, you'd think that if you were super-smart, and you suddenly lost your powers, the rapid drop in your intelligence would be mind-numbing.  He always seemed to shake off the sudden power loss without much consternation other than wondering how was he going to (a) get out of the death trap or (b) get his powers back, but think how dumb (not to mention physically weak) you'd suddenly feel.  It's probably akin to reading JLA: Rock of Ages at one sitting.  Smiley

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« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2007, 04:50:39 PM »

Maggin also speaks of how Superman can "sleep" with only one hemisphere of his brain, implying a level of duality that is quite appropriate for Clark/Kal-El.  Imagine trying to mind-read two different minds at once -- both going at super speed in loosely-tied directions.  Imagine just how many dreams Superman could have dreaming at super-speed, for that matter.  The entire post-Crisis as we know it could simply be a dream of Superman's, with Superboy-Prime's punch really a metaphor for the other side of Superman's brain telling him to wake up and go to work already. 

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