Have you ever wanted to climb up the sides of skyscrapers while slinging witty quips at villains, just like Spider-Man? If so, science has some disappointing news for you.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology studied 225 species of animals and insects with adhesive footpads. They learned that the size and weight of the species determines how much sticking power they need in order to climb vertical and/or inverted surfaces.
It turns out that a potential Spider-person would need adhesive pads covering 40 percent of their body in order to adhere to walls. Eww. Sticky.
According to Eureka Alert,
"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 a blue whale is mostly volume with not much surface area" explains [lead researcher Dr David] Labonte.
"This poses a problem for larger climbing species because, when they are bigger and heavier, they need more sticking power to be able to adhere to vertical or inverted surfaces, but they have comparatively less body surface available to cover with sticky footpads. This implies that there is a size limit to sticky footpads as an evolutionary solution to climbing....”
And the size limit on a creature with footpads who can cling to walls? That would be the size of a gecko, which weighs 70 grams or 2.5 ounces. As for a human, we would need much larger footpads in order to wall climb — a size 145 or a US size 114 shoe.
Wikipedia writes that The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, comic-book Spider-Man “is able to enhance the flux of inter-atomic attractive forces on surfaces he touches, increasing the coefficient of friction between that surface and himself.” However, in the 2002 movie Spider-Man, we saw Peter Parker had developed retractable barbed hairs on his fingers, which means he uses the same van der Waals force that geckos utilize.
Take heart, Spider-fans. You can still wittily quip at your enemies. You just won’t have much of an escape when they come to pummel you.