Spider-Man Does Whatever a Spider Can: Spiderman’s webbing would be strong enough to stop a moving train.
In Spiderman 2, the superhero uses his webbing to bring a runaway train to a standstill moments before it plummets over the end of the track.
But could a material with the strength and toughness of spiders’ web really stop four crowded subway cars?
According to University of Leicester physics students, the answer is yes.
The students found the force Spiderman's webs exert on the train to be 300,000 newtons.
They also found that the Young’s modulus – or stiffness – of the web would be 3.12 gigapascals. This is very reasonable for spider's silk, which ranges from 1.5 gigapascals to 12 gigapascals in the orb-weaver spiders.
The toughness of the silk was calculated as almost 500 megajoules per cubic metre. This is in line with web from a Darwin's Bark Spider - an orb-weaver with the strongest known webbing of any spider.
They conclude that the “friendly neighbourhood” superhero’s webbing is indeed a proportional equivalent of that of a real spider – and, consequently, it would be feasible for him to stop a moving train.
Alex Stone, 21, one of the students, said: It is often quoted that spider-webs are stronger than steel, so we thought it would be interesting to see whether this held true for Spiderman's scaled up version. Considering the subject matter we were surprised to find out that the webbing was portrayed accurately.
- Their paper, Doing whatever a spider can, was published in the latest volume of the University of Leicester’s Journal of Physics Special Topics.
- The journal is published every year, and features original short papers written by students in the final year of their four-year Master of Physics degree.
- The students are encouraged to be imaginative with their topics, and the aim is for them to learn about aspects of publishing and peer review.