Can Real-Life Science Recreate Spider-Man’s Powers?

PeterParkerWeb-ShootersThe answer, as according to a May 10, 2014 article from Matthew Gault at, appears to be yes…some day, and some day real soon. Only a real-life Spider-Man won’t happen from someone being bitten by radioactive spider; instead, it may come from research being conducted by the United States Military.

As according to the article, the Pentagon has been working on means for a person to cling to and scale walls without ropes or cables for several years:

Back in 2012, the Air Force formally requested a better way to climb walls. Undergraduates at Utah State University had the winning idea. Their system involves a powerful vacuum attached to suction cups

The setup looks ridiculous and it’s loud—but it works. The Air Force wrote a check for $100,000 for a more compact prototype.

Other developers are working on more elegant solutions.

Scientists applying what’s known as the Van Der Waals force to create clothing that allows human beings to climb vertical surfaces like geckos do. Prof. Kellar Autumn from Lewis & Clark College in Oregon developed a lizard-like synthetic material two years ago. He got the idea while working on wall-scaling robots for the Pentagon.

He’s not the only one. Physicist Nicola Pugno from Turin University in Italy published a paper back in 2007 describing gloves made of carbon nanotubes that help the wearer to stick to surfaces. “We are not very far, in my opinion, from a kind of Spider-Man suit,” Pugno wrote.

There are still others. Using military funding, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is developing Gecksin, its own version of the gecko-inspired material. Engineers at BAE Systems are working on a similar substance.

But if you think this is just limited to wall-crawling, think again. The piece also goes on to state how scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York have already created an experimental “web-fluid” which “gains strength when heated.” Also, the University of Chicago is working on a separate suit which can replicate “spider-sense.”

The suit contains tiny microphones that send and receive ultrasonic signals. If an object gets too close, robotic appendages built into the outfit apply pressure, compelling the wearer to move. [University of Chicago student Victor] Mateevisiti tested the suit by blindfolding participants and arming them with cardboard ninja stars to take down their attackers.

The participants hit their targets—while blindfolded—with 95-percent accuracy.

Also, remember how in The Amazing Spider-Man movie OsCorp had genetically altered spiders in order to mass produce spider-silk?  Well, the article says that’s already happening, too. This includes splicing the DNA from spiders into other organisms, including silkworms, goats, and even tomatoes.

Speaking of OsCorp, remember the Green Goblin healing exoskeleton suit from The Amazing Spider-Man 2? That’s being in development, too:

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) is the Maserati of military exoskeletons. U.S. Special Operations Command boss Adm. Bill McRaven proposed TALOS a year ago. Along with imparting extra strength, TALOS would assess minor wounds and fractures … and treat them.

Suddenly, comic-book science doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore.

Thanks to one of our Crawlspace members, Big Al, for notifying me about this fascinating read.


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(9) Comments

  1. Stillanerd - Post author

    @#8 Ben -- <blockquote>So how does creating the Sensational Spider-Goat actually help us at all?</blockquote> Good question, Ben. By splicing spider DNA with goats, the "spider-goats" can produce milk which contains high levels of a protein found in spider silk. This protein can then be extracted to then potentially weave a fabric with the same properties as spider-silk in mass quantities. Spider silk is quite unique in that it's very flexible and ductile but also, comparatively, has a higher tensile strength than steel and is tougher than Kevlar. Thus, if you could create clothing which has the same properties as spider silk, you'd have a very lightweight but very durable form of body armor.

  2. Ben

    So how does creating the Sensational Spider-Goat actually help us at all? The spider sense suit sounds pretty cool though.

  3. hornacek

    @3 - That makes two franchises that Clooney killed. @4 - If I paid taxes I would be outraged at what they were being used for.

  4. QuilSniv

    Isn't this what they said when about a dozen different scientifically-aligned corporations and maybe eighteen military contractors were assigned to recreate the Iron Man armor? How they said they could do it with the billion-dollar budget? Yeah, that never even got to perfecting the repulsers, let alone finish the suit. And that seemed very feasible in real life. And while I respect these guys for recreating Spider-Man's powers and adapting them into real-life, this will most likely drop as well... because SCIENCE! (@5 said it all)

  5. AmFan15

    Sadly, the genetic experimenting on tomatoes resulted only in this.

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