10 Science Concepts that Could Spawn Awesome Supervillains

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

In the Doctor Who episode "Blink," we meet "quantum locked" villains based on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. It's a great idea, but why stop there? There are plenty of scientific concepts that would make for great science fiction villains. Here are ten evil creations that could only have been made possible by science!

10. Leidenfrost the Catburglar

The Leidenfrost Effect is a well-known physics effect. When a cold liquid meets a hot surface the contact points of the liquid vaporize instantly. Because the vapor is a very good insulator, and because it exerts a force on the liquid above it, the liquid skims on a cloud of vapor, like a bead of water rolling across a moving surface. Neither the hot surface nor the cold liquid do much damage to each other. The very edges of the drop fall off of the cloud of vapor and vaporize themselves, so eventually the droplet evaporates away. Leidenfrost would be able to, at the first punch of a fight, immediately give off energy that would put an insulating cloud between them and their attacker. I think he or she would make a great Avengers villain (who occasionally teams up with them as an ally). The Hulk can punch, and Thor can zap, and Captain America can batter at Leidenfrost with his shield like an old lady bats at a mugger with her purse, but nothing can get through.


9. The Witzelsuchter

Witzelsucht, a condition brought on by a stroke or a blow to the head, is the compulsion to make juvenile jokes and constant puns. Sound like The Joker? No? Well, think back a few decades to when he was just the Clown Prince of Crime and committed wacky thefts that didn't leave anyone messily dead. I'd like that guy back, and if he has to come a new character, that's fine. What's more, he could have the ability to throw his power into the heroes, so suddenly whoever opposed him would have to act like him. Meanwhile, the actual Wiztelsuchter, bereft of his power, would just sit back and let the heroes commit his crimes for him.


8. Curry the Triangulator

Curry's Triangle Paradox is the visual trick of a mathematician and magician. A group of shapes are formed into a triangle. They're then swapped around to make another triangle, seemingly the same size as the first, but with a sudden extra box in the middle of the shape. The triangle is usually presented on graph paper, to show people that both triangles are the same size. (It turns out that a trick with the slope of the hypotenuse is being played and the triangle actually is larger.) Curry the Triangulator would be able, whenever the people trying to stop them shifted position, to open up a space in the world and escape out of it. To catch Curry, the heroes would have to stay in the same place in relation to each other.


7. Russell Pit

My apologies if this is anyone's actual name. The Russell's Pit Viper is a tropical snake whose bite can, if enough things go wrong, mess up the hormone distribution system of the body and essentially send a person back through puberty. They'd become, in many ways, prepubescent again. For some reason, I really, really, really want to send Tony Stark after this villain. It's a good challenge for either of them. Russell will have to hustle to bite Tony through his Iron Man suit in order to get the plot moving, and then Tony will have to go back through an awkward adolescence in front of Pepper, before somehow overcoming Russell and saving the day, possibly with the help of Bruce Banner, who tries to get Russell to bite him because it might reverse the effects of the radiation he suffered after adolescence, and Russell's all, "Not even I am stupid enough to bite The Hulk, man," and then there's drama. Well, I like it.


6. Stroopy de Plume

To be honest, this one's my favorite, but not enough of a heavyweight to go to the upper five. The Stroop Effect is a simple one. Most of us read so naturally and automatically that we literally can't look at a word without reading it. And when we read it, it changes the way we think. A quick experiment made this clear. Subjects were shown a bunch of words, printed in a few different colors. It should have been easy and automatic to pick out the red-colored words, but it wasn't. It wasn't easy because the words themselves spelled out the names of different colors. For example, the word "blue" might be printed in green ink. People read so automatically, that they became confused and had to take time to force themselves see what color the word was printed in. Stroopy would be able to just walk into a place with a sign that explained what he or she wanted to be perceived as doing, like "Lawfully browsing for wedding rings," or "Has security clearance," and do whatever they wanted, because people would read the signs and automatically believe that was what was happening.


5. Buttery Side Down

The Butter-Side-Down Effect began as a kind of bleak humor and became an actual principle, albeit one based on the height of the average kitchen table. It was found that the height of a table was not quite enough to let a fallen toast complete enough of a turn in order to land butter-side-up. As a result, it really is true that most toast does land butter-side-down and ruin itself and the floor both at once. Buttery Side Down would likewise ruin the people after them. Every uncontrolled fall would land just at the wrong angle. Every thrown object would be just that tiny bit off. Every jump would be a little too short, or a little too long. Buttery would be a kind of incarnation of bad luck for opponents.


Buttery also might be an excellent society assassin, if the character needed to be darker. How many of us, when hitting a stair or slipping on the curb just in front of traffic think, "If that had gone any differently, I'd be dead." If you're Buttery's target, it always goes differently. And the murder would be impossible to pin on Buttery, legally. The only problem would be in collecting a fee. Then again, the dire consequences for anyone who didn't pay up might convince people easily enough.

4. The Unjailable Brazil Nut

This would be a regular criminal, doing whatever criminal thing the plot required of them, until they got in a confined space. As long as the confined space remained perfectly organized and still, they'd stay there. But what jail is always perfectly organized and still? The Brazil Nut Effect is still not entirely understood. It's known that Brazil nuts always move to the top of cereals or mixed nut jars. The more shaking the container did during transport, the faster the Brazil nuts pop out at the top of the heap and stay there. It's said that most of the nuts in the container fall down small openings in the chaotic mix and travel to the bottom before they're pushed up again, but Brazil nuts are too large and awkwardly-shaped to fall down those holes, and so just stay on top. This is what The Unjailable Brazil Nut would do. Whenever the chaos starts, somehow, they just come out on top of everything. Every plan to catch them would have to be perfectly organized, and even if they were sent to prison, eventually they'd get out.


3. Fixed Point Thea

The Brouwer Fixed-Point Theorem is an interesting little theorem that requires two piece of paper. Put one on top of the other. Then pick up that top one and and crumple it mercilessly. Throw it down on the bottom piece of paper again. On that top piece of paper, no matter how it was crumpled, and no matter where it was put on the bottom piece of paper, there is at least one point that is on the exact same spot it was before the top paper was crumpled. The same thing works for a closed container of liquid. Stir it around however much, one point is exactly where it was before. Fixed Point Thea will have the ability, if necessary, to wildly and randomly change the position of everyone around her. She, however, will always stay in the exact same place. Any who fight her will have to be able to improvise again and again, and resistant to motion sickness, and it's still probable that they won't catch her.


2. Troxler the World Bender

The Troxler Effect is the result of the brain getting bored with looking at the same thing over and over. It tunes out and fills in details of the things that aren't moving or aren't the focus of attention. This effect often results in mirror-monsters, when people stare at themselves in the mirror for a long time, the eyes tune out parts of their own faces, turning it monstrous. Troxler the World Bender doesn't bend the world personally. They just wait until the opponents eyes get tired, and the world blanks out, or bends, or twists on them. This means that whole parts of reality are written out of existence if the hero doesn't focus on everything. Try fighting like that.


1. Parrondo the Undefeatable

The best villain, though, will make use of a paradox. The best paradox is the one in which always lets them come out on top. And so the absolute best paradox is the Parrondo Paradox. The Parrondo Paradox is a system created by a mathematician. He created two games, both of which were guaranteed to let a better lose all their money. However, flipping from one game to the other automatically makes for a win. Parrondo the Undefeatable would lose once, but if they lost again - a bet, a game of Rock Paper Scissors, a coin toss, a toothbrush - if they lost anything, they would win. Doesn't matter how. They'd just find a way to win. And the longer strings of losses they endured, the more they'd win over time, getting wealthier, stronger, more powerful, and so on. Does it work the other way? If they win, do they lose? No! Winning is just winning. It's losing that creates the paradox. So this is one villain who would entirely live up to their name. They'd be undefeatable. Then again, if they got whatever they wanted by losing, they technically wouldn't have to be a villain at all.


Triangle Image: Fibonacci

Toast Image: National Cancer Institute

Troxler Image: Mysid