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View Full Version : Theoretically: Abnormal body density



efreysson
04-11-2010, 12:09 PM
I'm probably about to reveal my piss-poor understanding of biology, but I'm wondering whether to make my superhumanly strong characters superhumanly dense and heavy as well. Like, would denser bone and muscle be capable of greater feats of strength and more resistant to injury? Or would the character be unable to move, or their feet simply sink into the ground?

I'm not talking about making them several tons. Just 2-4 times heavier than they should otherwise be.

shaldna
04-11-2010, 01:11 PM
last i chekced 300lb people didn't sink into the ground.

Abnormal body density is fine in this context and shouldn't present any real logistical problems.

I'm not sure how it would make him stronger though. but it's your world, you can do what you want.

GeorgeK
04-11-2010, 01:46 PM
It would mainly depend upon why they are super strong. If it's magic, then whatever. If they are mutants/next evolution then their weight should probably be roughly proportional to their size.

Super lean isn't a good thing because fat provides energy especially when healing wounds. As a surgeon, I often saw the lean people lose the most weight after a major procedure and trauma patients do better when they have at least a little fat.

Denser bones might be a realistic consideration because phosphorus is necessary for ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) which is used by all animal life in producing usable energy and the bones are the storehouse for phosphorus. However, bones that are too dense have too little space for marrow making the person anemic and therefore not strong. Five years ago I woke up one day with a broken back due to a metabolic kidney problem previously only recognized in renal transplant patients. A long story short; I had advanced osteoporosis. After years of what would be toxic doses of phosphorus for the average person my bones have gone from being rated as a 90 year old woman to a 50 year old man. My clothes sizes didn't change, yet I gained about 20 pounds. So, an extra 20 pounds or so to make bones denser than average would be reasonable, but probably not making them twice as heavy, unless they were twice as big. (Interesting sidenote about the phosphorus; I used to have intense cravings for things that most other people wouldn't eat, like bones. I'd gnaw the ends off of chicken bones and suck out the marrow until they were basically straws. Some people got weirded out by it and would ask, "Are you part dog?" I liked small fish like sardines and anchovies where you eat the bones. I found a more socially acceptable way to do it. Now I pressure cook the bones down into stock and can it for soup. The dogs don't bother with the bones after I've cooked out all the flavor and they are so brittle that they can be crushed by hand. My point is that unless they warriors are really big, I'd have them not be super dense, but just a little heavier than expected such that you'd need a scale to judge it, but mainly give them behavioral variances regarding their food cravings.)

Super-Bulky muscles are not usually a sign of the kind of strength that a warrior would need. It's usually a sign of anaerobic training so those people might be able to lift a giant weight once, but would likely keel over in exhaustion if forced to run half a mile. The other problem with bulky muscles is that their training is typically not across the full range of motion for a given muscle. Those muscles are much more likely to tear when called upon to do something other than the narrow range of training that produces that body shape.

Making them twice as heavy as they should look would also require a lot more energy to move that weight

Captcha
04-11-2010, 06:48 PM
You might want to check out this article (http://www.cracked.com/article_17185_7-awesome-super-powers-ruined-by-science.html). I have no idea of the scientific validity of what they're saying, but it seems true to this layperson's eye.

frimble3
04-11-2010, 11:38 PM
last i chekced 300lb people didn't sink into the ground.

Abnormal body density is fine in this context and shouldn't present any real logistical problems.
.
There is a tendency to sink more deeply into mushy ground (bogs, marshes, snow, loose sand. Also, you tend to be a little careful about putting weight on weak looking structures: flimsy wood stairs, ladders, floors. Those little plastic stepstools are scary! And rickety chairs.

debirlfan
04-12-2010, 02:14 AM
For what it's worth - vampires are supposed to be strong, and I believe fairly dense - which sort of makes sense, as many vampires have trouble with rivers and such, as being extra heavy for your size would make swimming/floating difficult or impossible.

benbradley
04-12-2010, 03:36 AM
Just for reference, muscle is about ten percent more dense (the same volume weighs about ten percent more) than fat, so there's not a lot of difference. The other difference it's harder to substantially increase muscle weight than fat weight, and of course muscle weight maxes out lower. I'm guessing champion bodybuilders have 50 to 100 pounds of muscle weight, whereas it's possible to have several hundred pounds of fat weight, and the maximun limitation is that it will eventually kill the person.

Presuming it's possible to increase muscle mass beyond a bodybuilding maximum (steroids appear to do this somewhat, at least enough to make a difference in professional sports), I imagine one would look like "The Incredible Hulk."

...
Super-Bulky muscles are not usually a sign of the kind of strength that a warrior would need. It's usually a sign of anaerobic training so those people might be able to lift a giant weight once, but would likely keel over in exhaustion if forced to run half a mile. The other problem with bulky muscles is that their training is typically not across the full range of motion for a given muscle. Those muscles are much more likely to tear when called upon to do something other than the narrow range of training that produces that body shape.
Hmm, maybe that's true when training with freeweights. The Nautilus and many other bodybuilding machines are designed to provide the "appropriate" amount of weight at every point in the range of motion to train the muscle over the full range of motion. From what I've experienced, the main limitation is when muscles get so big they interfere at the ends of range of motion, thus they slightly reduce the range.

DrZoidberg
04-12-2010, 01:49 PM
...or maybe you're just over-thinking this? Anything that is doable and a good idea is done already. Evolution is good that way. We get to see a lot of failed attempts for improvement, as well as the good ones. If it doesn't work or hasn't been done there's probably some good and solid scientific reason for it. Single radical changes in the body like you are proposing usually just ends up being a handicap.

So maybe you should just go with magic/sciency hand-waving? Are you sure your readers want to know or care? The force in Star Wars was great until George Lucas felt the urge to explain the "midiclorians", and ruined it. "Reversing the polarity" is a perfectly acceptable science-fiction explanation, even if it makes no sense scientifically.