Sad news for hopefuls, because science says you can never become Spider-Man and gain his trademark skills of easily climbing and sticking on walls. It’s potentially a big blow on those who were waiting for that radioactive spider. For the rest, it’s a study regarding climbing species and their adhesive qualities.
Researchers tested around 225 climbing species, and compared their adhesive surface areas with their body weight. This ranged from mites, to geckos, and spiders. Their results showed that with increase in size, there was a natural bigger requirement for adhesive pads to carry them up vertical angles. The larger the creature, the more areas around its body it would need in order to avoid falling to its death.
When rounded up to humans, the measurements found impossible standards.
For a human to be able to climb so easily, they would need to have adhesive pads on 40% of their body. Or to have abnormally large feet, an U.S. size 114, in order to propel themselves up walls just with their feet. That makes Spider-Man an impossible achievement, and scientifically inaccurate in Marvel history. However, perhaps superheroes should not be the first choice of genuine scientific capabilities.
Geckos, however, are the largest animals in the world who have such exceptional skills. They have exquisitely complex footpads consisting of small, branched hairs that deform upon contact. This results in millions of contact points that hold the little lizard steady on smooth, vertical surfaces. Comparable to its size and weight, it has the most impressive capabilities of such adhesive pads.
They pose as the perfect combination between body size in rapport to adhesive area. According to one of the study’s researchers, David Labonte, this is why vertical climbing is an issue for larger animals. The bigger and the heavier they are, the more sticking power they require, and the less area available they have to be etched with sticky pads.
So, in order to create the most convincing Spider-Man cosplay ever, one would need 40% of their body to be covered in adhesive pads, or 80% of their front. However, there might be a hope for you yet.
Some appear to have increased the efficiency of their adhesive surface areas with time, in proportion to their size. The mechanism is yet unclear, but it will be further researched in the future. It could aid in the designing of bio-inspired adhesives, bigger and more powerful than what we have today. So far, there are only theories, and time will answer further questions.
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