Bam! Science Inspired by Superheroes

By Eric Roston - 2013-12-17T14:48:54Z

Photograph by Warner Bros./Everett Collection

17 of 18

Dr. Manhattan

Named after the U.S.’s World War II effort to build atomic bombs, Dr. Manhattan is the omnipotent, ghostly remains of Jon Osterman, a physicist who is reduced to atoms when trapped in a high-energy research chamber. Mysteriously reconstituted months afterwards, he is so powerful that mere knowledge of his existence tips the Cold War strategic balance in the U.S.’s favor.

Able to duplicate himself, shrink or grow in size, teleport and control matter, Dr. Manhattan is in many ways the ultimate in superheroes, a god so powerful he has trouble maintaining interest in human affairs. 

His lesson is equally powerful: Being all-powerful isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be if you can’t be be all-knowing, too.

Left: Watchmen, 2009.

More from the special report, Make It Last: Designing for the Ages