The answer, as according to a May 10, 2014 article from Matthew Gault at Medium.com, 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.