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How does Superman make sure his heat vision doesn't cause collateral damage beyond his intended target? To be more to the point, how far do errant beams travel and what happens once they strike an object? Is it even within Superman's control the distance his beams travel?

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    @amarillo This is subtly not a duplicate: the older question asks how far he can expand his heat vision - i.e. is there an upper bound on its range? - while this one asks how he makes sure it doesn't go further than the target, which is a different question. – Rand al'Thor Apr 12 '16 at 12:07
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One argument that has been introduced is that he converges the beams such that they destructively interfere at the intended point of contact.

Eye convergence Converging beams

The problem you run into, as indicated by Dr. Scott at Polite Dissent is that a) at least for humans, there's a point of "optical infinity", about 20 feet, where your eyes don't converge (and the above pictures indeed depicts such a distance) and b) artists are inconsistent with the beams sometimes obviously being parallel.

Parallel lines blast Burn scars on lobotomized Doomsday

Ultimately, as with most of Superman's abilities, there's a lot of hand-waving going on and a lot of his powers make more sense under one of the blanket explanations that it's a matter of psychic powers or even reality manipulation.

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  • If you if you consider that Superman's vision is a suite of abilities, the problem of convergence is neatly solved, as was pointed out in the first comment at Dr. Scott at Polite Dissent. – sfhq_sf Apr 12 '16 at 20:22
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    @sfhq_sf: True. And it is pointed out that Superman isn't exactly human, so convergence could work some other way. – FuzzyBoots Apr 12 '16 at 21:08

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