Spider-Man could not exist, Cambridge University research finds

Bad news, Spiderman fans. New research from Cambridge University (perhaps the most important research to ever come from Cambridge University) has found that Spiderman couldn't exist in real life.

A study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (aka PNAS, destroyer of children's dreams) has shown that it would be impossible for Spiderman to climb walls. The study looked at animals who climb walls, and found that as their body size went up, so too did the amount of their body surface covered by sticky footpads. Without this increase in sticky body covering, larger animals would be unable to climb walls.

This means that in order to climb walls, Spiderman would need impossibly large floppy clown feet, massive hands, and sticky pads covering a massive percentage of his body.

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Even then, he wouldn't be able to scale walls the way he does in the comics.


Walter Federle from Cambridge University's Department of Zoology, explained:

"If a human, for example, wanted to climb up a wall the way a gecko does, we'd need impractically large sticky feet and shoes in European size 145 or US size 114."

"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."

"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."

A gecko is the largest animal that could scale a wall, according to the research.

Sticky dude

Whilst the research doesn't say Spiderman's hands wouldn't be sticky (or really, really sticky), it suggests that he wouldn't be able to climb walls with these sticky hands, leading to less heroics and a much more disappointing theme song.

New disappointing lyrics - "Sticky hands, sticky hands, he does stuff with his sticky hands. Walks around, sticks to stuff. Look out! He has some sticky hands."

PNAS compared the weight and footpad size of 225 climbing animal species including insects, frogs, spiders, lizards and one mammal. To be clear, the research looked at evolutionary solutions to problems, and was not exclusively aimed at crushing your childhood dream of being Spiderman.

Dr David Labonte said: "Adhesive pads of climbing animals are a prime example of convergent evolution where multiple species have independently, through very different evolutionary histories, arrived at the same solution to a problem. When this happens, it's a clear sign that it must be a very good solution."

The good news

So you can stop going out there, pumping spiders full of radiation and hoping they get angry enough to bite you. It won't give you the powers you're looking for. But there is good news, if you're into glue.

"Our study emphasises the importance of scaling for animal adhesion," Dr Labonte told Cambridge News.

"Scaling is also essential for improving the performance of adhesives over much larger areas."

"There is a lot of interesting work still to be done looking into the strategies that animals use to make their footpads stickier. These would likely have very useful applications in the development of large-scale, powerful yet controllable adhesives."

So there you go. Spiderman doesn't exist, but we might get some glue out of it. Not all bad, eh?

And if you want some more good news, the researchers have not yet investigated whether Spider Pig could exist, and refused to answer our many questions about the subject. So there's still hope.

Like this news story? Check out this 'Spacious' public toilet on sale in London for £1million...