PART 19: WORLD WIDE WEB - SPIDER-MAN'S WEB-SHOOTERS
By Alex Wiggan (and Ryan the liberty taking work experience lad)
Hi and welcome to the latest chapter in The Science Of Superheroes. This week we’re in Sussex, England. Yes, we’ve returned back home and that’s because this week we’re looking at Spider-man’s web-shooters and it was in Sussex where a piece of amber containing a spider’s web was found, which proved webs date back at least 140 million years.
OK, OK, the real reason we’ve returned to England is because we’ve run out of cash. Yep, The Comics Code expense account has run dry, which was surprising really as the last time I checked there was still enough for a few more trips... well that was until Ryan explained what had happened. It seems that whilst we’ve been travelling there has been a little bit more to Ryan’s ‘dating’ than I would have imagined and he’s only just decided to come clean. It seems that Ryan blew our budget on a number of hookers... and expensive hookers at that! Oh and if we’re really being accurate it wasn’t so much a bunch of expensive hookers, as a succession of ‘questionable’ ladies (one definitely had a winkle) that were all blessed with a large dose of the clap! As you can imagine I’m more than a little bit peeved about the situation (as that’s my jolly boys outing to Magaluf down the pan), but there’s not much I can do about it now, so we’ll crack on for this week. Things are a little bit strained between me and Ryan, but being the ultimate professionals we won’t let that get in the way of our scientific journey, so here we go again. The git!
WHAT IS A WEB-SHOOTER?
It’s a mechanical device that produces (and then shoots) artificial webs, based upon a spider’s spinneret.
A spinneret! It’s the organ in the body of a spider that produces the silk webbing ... that pretty much shoots out of a spider’s arse! The amount of spinnerets a spider has varies between two and eight, but either way they’re helpful for making webs and that’s exactly what the web-shooter was designed for.
SO WHO DO THE WEB-SHOOTERS BELONG TO?
The web-shooter belongs to Marvel Comics’ most famous wall-crawler, the Spectacular Spider-man, who was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. Ever since his debut Spider-man has been one of comics most popular and enduring characters and part of that is because of Spidey’s down to Earth alter-ego Peter Parker who was bitten by a radioactive spider and given numerous spider-like abilities. However despite Peter acquiring super spider powers, he was unable to create his own webbing (although he did in movies and briefly in the comics) so he had to create artificial webbing via his homemade web-shooters.
SO HOW EXACTLY DO THE WEB-SHOOTERS WORK?
The web-shooters are wrist mounted devices that are filled with a special chemical concoction devised by Peter himself. At the top of the wrist is a pressure sensitive trigger that extends to fit comfortably in the palm of the hand and when Pete applies pressure onto the trigger, using his two middle fingers, the shooters release the chemical that turns into a web-line on contact with the air. The web-shooters are designed so that they will not be set off by accident should Peter ball up his fist and the web-line that is produced is extremely strong and versatile; allowing it to become a variety of web based structures, nets and even a parachute. Although the webbing is incredibly strong it usually dissolves within a few hours.
OH... SO HOW ALIKE ARE SPIDEY'S WEB-SHOOTERS TO A SPIDER'S WEB?
Well, like web-shooters a spider produces an elastic web-line that is stronger than its equivalent size in steel and extremely sticky. The reason for a web’s stickiness is due to little droplets of glue on the silk strands, but here comes the impressive thing... the glue changes its behaviour depending upon the speed of force placed upon the web. When something touches it quickly the web becomes a solid elastic, but if something touches it slowly then it acts like glue with a pretty firm grip! Originally spiders produced silk as a way of protecting their bodies as well as their eggs; however over time this changed to the sort of webs that you’ll be more familiar with which crop up here, there and everywhere. These webs are useful to spiders for trapping insects and bugs, which is just like how Spidey uses his web-shooters to spin webs any size, in order to catch thieves just like flies! Oh and not only are webs an efficient way of capturing prey, but just like Spider-man’s webbing, a spiders silk also loses stickiness over time.
SO COULD I USE ALL OF THIS KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTIVELY TO PRODUCE WEBBING OF MY OWN?
No stupid... but that’s got more to do with the fact you’d be chasing booty than actually trying to produce webs! Oh and also because Spidey’s web-shooters are fictional and also because people don’t have spinnerets.
And now you know.
SUPER SCIENCE EQUATION: Scum bag Ryan + knowledge of spider webs = A sneaky, thieving, deceitful work experience lad who owes me money... with information on webs
We’ll as you can imagine I need to have a few more words with that scoundrel Ryan, so see you next time!