Spidey Silk Can Actually Halt a Train

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It may have happened in Spider Man 2, but that was just the movies. Now, three University of Leicester physics students have calculated that a single spider web, if anchored properly, could halt a four-car New York City subway train traveling at full speed.

The physics students found that the amount of force the spider web would need to stand up to a barreling train would be a very hefty 300,000 Newtons. That means the spider web would be required to absorb some 500 million joules of energy to ensure it would not snap against the force.

In the Spider Man 2 movie scene, the superhero zaps multiple strands of spidey silk at surrounding buildings to create a web to stop a runaway train moments before it would have plummeted over the end of the track.

In fact, the physicists found that just one spider web could do the job — if it were the web of Darwin’s bark spider from Madagascar. The silk has been found to be tougher than any other known material and more than 10 times stronger than Kevlar.

“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 Spider-Man’s scaled up version,” said one of the three students, Alex Stone, 21, from Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, in a press release. “We were surprised to find out that the webbing was portrayed accurately.”

The research is published in the latest issue of the University of Leicester’s Journal of Physics Special Topics. via Press Association.

Photo: Darwin’s bark spider is an orb-weaver with the strongest known webbing of any spider. Credit: Matjaz Kuntner

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