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The Science of 12 Superheroes Explained

The Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics is a regular publication written by physics students at the University of Leicester in the UK. In it, the authors apply real physics to popular culture, such as exploring the effects of Miley Cyrus coming in like a wrecking ball, how much lembras bread would be necessary to journey through Mordor, and how long vampires need to suck all of the blood out of a human body.

Most recently, the students examined the powers of a dozen popular Marvel and DC superheroes, including Batman, Thor, Batman, and the Silver Surfer. In this symposium, Leah Ashley describes Mystique as "the ultimate mutant." Ashley explains the genetic basis for Mystique's ability to alter her appearance:

Mystique’s ability to change the patterns on her skin as camouflage could be similar to the ability of various cephalopods (such as cuttlefish). These possess chromatophores similar to the melanocytes in humans, however the classes of pigments span a wider range of colours. Some classes also contain nanocrystals that reflect light to create a shine. The chromatophores of cuttlefish are surrounded by muscles that are able to change the cells between punctate and expanded states, based signals from motor centres of the brain based on visual cues [13][14]. This produces a quicker colour-change response than the pigment dispersal mechanism used by vertebrates like the chameleon [15].

The cuttlefish has 6 reflectin genes that relate to its development of iridosmes and effective camouflage [16]. These genes may be part of the additional genes Mystique possesses. The gene PAX7A controls chromatophore development in the Japanese rice fish, and SLC2A15B is important to chromatophore differentiation [17]. SLC2A15 is similar to human SLC2A9, and PAX7A could be related to the human PAX7 gene that regulates muscle tissue formation [17][18]. With considerable mutation in her genome, Mystique may therefore show similar surface properties as the Japanese rice fish.

-via VA Viper


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