In Alan Moore and Jack Gibbons’ graphic novel Watchmen, which was adapted to the silver screen earlier this year, the very peculiar Dr. Manhattan exists among a series of “human” costumed heroes. Dr. Manhattan is an alien-looking, blue-skinned, glowing superman with the unique ability to command all forms of matter, right down to the very particles of which he consists. This allows him to perform a multitude of incredible feats, including teleportation and self-reassembly into various sizes, to name just a couple of his mind-numbing powers.
As far out as some of Manhattan’s traits may be, University of Minnesota physics professor Jim Kakalios, author of the book The Physics of Superheroes, has taken great delight in postulating how actual applied physics might be able to explain some of Dr. Manhattan’s peculiarities. For instance, the blue man’s strange glowing hue “could be because of an electromagnetic shock front which gives off energy in the ultraviolet or the blue portion of the spectrum.”
In essence, the hero, who was created during an experiment gone wrong which disassembled his very atomic structure, is constantly reassembling himself through the removal of his intrinsic field. “He is constantly generating, pulling up stray electrons out of the ground to keep his atomic balance right. Some of these electrons are leaking off, creating drain-off radiation. By adjusting how fast they’re going he can adjust the hue and intensity of his glow.”
As fascinating as pondering Dr. Manhattan’s hypothetical glow may be, perhaps none of his powers capture the imagination quite like his ability to see time in a manner that looks into the past, present, and future all at once. At many points during the unfolding saga of the Watchmen, Manhattan not only peers telepathically into the past and future himself, but he also helps others to do so by touching their forehead and triggering a sudden flow of latent thought forms from within the psyche. Indeed, this ability appears to be wholly super-human, existing completely in the realm of fiction, right?
The truth may come as a shock; for indeed, there are very real instances where people like you or I have described abilities that are frighteningly similar to Manhattan’s precognative abilities, lending to the notion that there could be a science behind non-physical time travel and making it something potentially available to anyone.