In Brief

Spider-Man's powers are a web of lies, find researchers

Research shows the superhero would need huge hands and feet to carry out his daredevil feats

160119-spiderman.jpg

In sad news for supporters of vigilante justice everywhere, scientists have revealed the web-swinging abilities of Spider-Man would not be feasible in the real world.

Researchers from Cambridge University say the superhero would need 43ins hands and size 114 feet to stick to a wall without falling off.

The experts found that as climbing animals grow in weight and size, the amount of body surface needed to be "sticky" increases exponentially.

A mutant crime-fighter such as Peter Parker would therefore need sticky pads covering 40 per cent of their body to scale buildings.

"As animals increase in size, the amount of body surface area per volume decreases: an ant has a lot of surface area and very little volume and an elephant is mostly volume with not much surface area," said lead researcher David Labonte.

"This poses a problem for larger climbing animals because, when they are bigger and heavier, they need more sticking power. But they have comparatively less body surface available for sticky footpads.

"This implies that there is a maximum size for animals climbing with sticky footpads – and that turns out to be about the size of a gecko."

There is one other possible solution to the problem and that's to make your sticky footpads even stickier, notes the Daily Telegraph.

"We noticed that within some groups of closely related species, pad size was not increasing fast enough to match body size yet these animals could still stick to walls," said the report's co-author Christofer Clemente.

"We found that tree frogs have switched to this second option of making pads stickier rather than bigger. It's remarkable that we see two different evolutionary solutions to the problem of getting big and sticking to walls."

There is some hope for those still wishing to imitate Spider-Man, Engadget observes.

"The findings show that bigger animals partly overcome their size through stickier pads, and this has implications for the creation of large-but-flexible synthetic adhesives that aren't practical right now," writes Jon Fingas.

"There may never be a real Peter Parker, then, but the studies showing why he can't exist might just lead to some technological breakthroughs."

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