Flying or Invisibility or Math?

I first head the question “which would you rather have, flight or invisibility?” a dozen + years ago. At the time it struck me as a slightly humorous question that could prompt people to think about what they would do with an ability. Before you make a choice — flight or invisibility — here are the ground rules:

Flight means the power to travel in the air up to 100,000 feet at a maximum velocity of 1,000 MPH. You don’t have any other powers. You’re not invincible and you don’t have super strength. Thus depending on your natural strength you probably can’t carry many people with you on your flights. Large pets or small children would be key candidates.

Invisibility means the power to make yourself unseen, as well as your clothes. But things you pick up are still visible. Food and drink are visible until digested.

Key Point: These powers are things in and of themselves; they don’t grant additional powers.(1) Unlike Math.

Math:(2) The superpower that is Additive(3)

Mathematics has several cardinal points: arithmetic, logical, and geometric. From those starting points,(4) set theory, calculus, and statistics can be derived.(5) Computers and computer science grow from the arithmetic and logical branches of mathematics.

Model-Based Design (and Model-Based Systems Engineering) is in turn is based on computer science and controls theory (which in turn is…).(6)

Knowing the antecedent…

Knowing the background of MBD/MBSE shows us how to improve the outcomes of these tools. E.g. knowing where to look when there are issues of performance and how far you backtrack to determine the solution. The process I go through when I am trying to improve a performance issue is I ask myself, what is the root cause of the problem? Is it arithmetic, computational, or logical? Knowing that, I then know how to improve the problem.


  1. The restriction that the power is “one thing in and of itself” is to prevent the superman conundrum that you can do anything: super speed and strength and flight and laser beam eyes. This got me thinking though, could you have a superpman based on just one power that could accomplish many super-feats, and if so what would it be? Would that superpower explain some of the problems with the character of Superman’s powers? I think the answer is “Yes” and the power is teleportation. Teleportation would accomplish:
    • Flight: multiple small teleportations to give the appearance of flying (think like an animation)
    • Super strength: not actually lifting things, just teleporting them up (or bending or what not). This also resolves the issue of picking up things that are structurally unstable, e.g. they stick together because they are teleported as a whole
    • Super speed: I always wondered why when Superman did a “super fast cleaning” the plates didn’t explode due to friction. The answer: he just teleports the dirt off!
  2. In this post I am talking about math, but in reality it is critical thinking that is the true base superpower. If we think of footnote 1, it is the teleportation of the mind that takes you to new places.
  3. Pun fully intended
  4. Hmm, thinking about this, with 2 starting points we can grow linearly, with three, quadratically…
  5. Given different starting points, the same underlying mathematical theories have been derived in different fashions.
  6. The “X is derived from Y” all the way down back to first principles modeling

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