Inquisitive people, gather ‘round. We’re going to delve into a question that has been keeping comic book fans up at night. Can Superman’s X-ray vision see through a steel door?
First off, let’s talk about Superman. He’s not your average Joe. Along with speed and superhuman strength, Superman could “leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
But Superman didn’t actually start flying until 1940, during a radio show called Adventures of Superman. Flight showed up in the Superman comic in 1941.
He’s also got wind and freeze breath. He can create a gust that will knock you off your feet or an icy blast that will freeze you in your tracks.
Superman has had lots of other powers added or taken away in his 85-plus years as a comic book hero. But his X-ray vision was split into heat vision where he could melt or bore holes into things and the seeing-through-things vision we call X-ray vision.
So, What Do X-Rays See?
X-rays work by creating images based on material density. The denser the material, the less likely X-rays can pass through it.
Consider the human body. It’s a mix of air, water, fat, soft tissues, bone, and metal bits like old tooth fillings or metal pins holding injured bones together. These different densities show up in varying shades of black, grey, and white when doctors take an X-ray.
Air appears black because it is less dense. Fat and other soft tissues show up in different shades of grey. Meanwhile, bones and metal objects, being denser, come out as white.
So, what about steel? Well, steel is dense but not so much that Superman couldn’t see through it. So, yes, our Superman can see through steel!
Can Superman See Through Everything?
While Superman can see through steel, there’s one material his superpowered eyes can’t penetrate—lead. Yes, you heard it right. Superman cannot see through lead.
Why, you ask? It’s all about density. Lead is denser than steel. In fact, it’s so dense that X-rays can’t pass through it. That’s why radiologists use lead aprons or blankets to protect parts of your body during an X-ray.
A lead-lined door might be a good investment if you’re ever unfortunate (or fortunate) enough to have Superman as a nosy neighbor. But since it’s unlikely that a fictional comic book character will be moving in next door any time soon, a steel security door is a great investment for your home’s safety, energy efficiency, and attractiveness. So, there’s a little bit of comic book trivia mixed with some science. Next time anyone nags you for having your nose in a comic book, defend the habit as educational!