Asia’s X-Man: the Magnet Man from Malaysia

The world is abuzz with Avengers: Infinity War, the latest blockbuster film from Marvel Studios. Dubbed “The most ambitious crossover event in history”, it features some of Marvel’s most popular heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther and many more, working together to save the world in one step a two-part epic. It represents the culmination of a decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe films. After following the story lines and character development leading up to this event for so long, the excitement from fans, both young and old, is palpable.


But what if superpowers aren’t exclusive to comic and movie universes? A Malaysian man, Liew Thow Lin, has a special ability reminiscent of the erstwhile ally of Marvel’s X-Men, Magneto – a tragic supervillain with power over magnetism.

Also known as “Magnet Man,” “Magnetic Man,” and “Mr. Magnet,” Mr. Lin, a contractor, was born in 1930, but did not realise that he had the special ability until he was 60, when some of his tools started sticking to his body.

Determined to test the limits of his newly discovered powers, he soon learned that he could do more than make a wrench or hammer stick to his torso and belly. To date, he has performed several impressive feats, including carrying 9kg of bricks supported by iron bars and even pulling a bus a few metres for charity.

Despite undergoing extensive examination by scientists, the exact nature of his abilities remains a mystery. The most common theory put forth for people with so-called magnetic abilities is that although their levels of magnetism aren’t higher than the average person’s, their skin is able to apply a lot more frictional force.

This frictional force is what scientists think accounts for the magnet-like effect their skin exhibits, which allows objects to seemingly stick to their body and resist opposing force in the same way a magnet interacts with iron. The ability seems to be genetic, as some of Mr. Lin’s grandchildren are endowed with it too. Liew Thow Lin made the most of his magnetic talents by holding demonstrations, usually for charity, and appearing on shows that highlighted his amazing ability. He made an appearance on Discovery Channel’s “One Step Beyond”, a show which explored unusual medical cases, seemingly supernatural phenomena, animal abilities and technological advances.

Mr. Lin and other people who have powers for which modern science has no concrete explanation, remind us that despite the rapid advances in recent human history, there is still much left for us to learn and discover.

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