Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Super Spider

In the news today, Spiderman is real!  No he isn’t, that’s just stupid, but the concept behind his web being able to stop a speeding train, now that is real. Physics boffins at the University of Leicester have been researching the possibilities of it.

Students at the University, who clearly have nothing better to do than combine their love of the movies with their day jobs, have stated that if the spider’s web was scaled to human dimensions, the silk from a certain arachnid could exert 300,000 newtons of force.  Just to get that into some kind of prospective, the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima had a force of 300,000 newtons.

The scientists have bombarded us with figures on this such as; the web stiffness would need to be 3.12 gigapascals & its toughness would be required to be 500 mega joules per cubic metre.  Glad they cleared that up!  Gigapascal is a measure of pressure & joule is a measure of energy, so I’d make an educated guess that a mega joule is a really good one.

There is one spider in particular that the research is based on & that is of Darwin’s Bark spider from Madagascar which is said to produce the toughest biological material in the World.  Now that’s some claim, a mega one even. This little critter which is no bigger than 2cm spins webs of this super silk, with web sizes ranging from 900–28,000 cm.

Zoologists claim that this spiders web is over 10 times stronger than Kevlar, which if you weren't aware, is the material used to make, among other things, bullet proof vests.  I’m thinking that the reason we don’t use the Bark spiders silk to stop speeding bullets is because it is maybe a little on the sticky side, the purpose of it is to catch flies after all.

The calculations are based on the momentum of a four carriage train at full speed & the time it takes to stop, taking into consideration the trains driving force.  I wonder if they took into consideration the possibility of overhead cable repairs, delays due to unforeseen circumstances of staff shortages or leaves on the line?

Whatever theories the experts present to us, we readily digest them as we love to think of them actually happening, although the chances of the researchers having a speeding train running into a giant spiders web in the laboratory? Not really, it’s a safe bet actually, who’s going to be able to disprove it?  Throw in a bunch of calculations using measurements no one has heard of & associate a little Hollywood sparkle to it, you’re on to a winner.

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