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Could Spider-Man Swing on Actual Spider Silk?

What do you need to be a spider-based superhero? Tiny hairs that help you stick to walls? Duh. Super strength? Of course. But what about silk? Natural spider silk is one of the strongest natural materials on the planet. Would Peter Parker even need his own synthetic webs if he wanted to swing around?

In my latest Because Science, I’m swinging into action with web-head. We’ll have to go back and learn a bit of introductory physics, but Parker is a genius, remember? To find out whether plain old spider silk can turn you into a superhero, we have to assume a few things about Spider-Man — web line lengths, swing velocities, and the thickness of spider silk. A few equations later and POW! super science.

It turns out that in the “realistic” range of those parameters, Spider-Man could safely swing around on a line of silk no thicker than a pencil. Think of it this way: every square meter of spider silk could support almost 2 billion Netwons of force. A pencil’s cross section, is more than enough to support Peter.

But this only applies to Parker’s spider aerial pakour. If Spider-Man wanted to use his silk on something like a falling car or Captain America’s hands, that would require either much thicker spider silk, or some of Peter’s special blend. Maybe Tony Stark could help him find a better formula…


Check out my last video on why Iron Man has a secret superpower that woodpeckers have, subscribe to this playlist to stay current with the show, buy a Because Science shirt (you know why), and follow me on Twitter to give me a suggestion for the next episode!

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