April 30, 2007

To celebrate the return of Peter Parker to theatres on May 4th, we thought we would pit him against a villain whose powers truly matched his own — A Real Spider (but let's make her about 5'8" so they're evenly matched in size). We'll name her Spinderella.

Let's head into the gym...

In the black corner, we can see Spinderella the Spider showing off her impressive strength. Oh wow — is she bench-pressing all of those audience members? She's got the whole front row! That's got to be at least 50 people she's lifting!

Spiderman, not to be outdone, appears to be grabbing even more audience members and stacking on some of the ring officials and ushers! I think Spiderman's done it — he's lifting at least 130 times his weight. Is Spinderella out of her league??


Did You Know?
Realistically, the average number of spiders swallowed at night per person per lifetime is probably less than one. (not 5 or 12 like that urban myth tells you) Alright, enough of this showing off, let's get into the ring.

Spiderman is looking leeringly at Spinderella, but I don't think she's intimidated. After all, she's got 8 eyes to leer back at him with since she's a hunting spider like a Wolf Spider or a Tarantula.

Worse yet, her eyes are adapted to the lower light levels of this arena for hunting prey, which I think Spiderman might become tonight. Spinderella shows off her venomous fangs that could paralyse or even kill Spiderman.

And if she sinks those teeth into him, she will be able to vomit digestive juices into the wound that will break down his body tissue, allowing her to suck out his gooey insides.


Did You Know?
Some spiders eyes are built to detect polarized light (think of built-in sunglasses), allowing them to navigate by sensing the direction and angle of the sun's rays. Spiderman's spidery senses are tingling though. The hairs all over his body stand up, alerting him to the dangerous intentions of his enemy. He jumps up on the ropes of the ring with his incredible agility and balance, and readies himself for his opponent.

Spinderella lunges forward with her eight legs, each of them equipped with tiny microscopic hairs called setae. If she is able to touch him, she can hold on to him — each setae contains tens of thousands of even smaller hairs called spatulae that use Van der Waals forces to stick to surfaces.

With Van der Waals forces, each force between the positive and negative poles of different molecules is pretty weak, but if you multiply this by the millions, Spinderella can hold up to 170 times her body mass. Spiderman dodges out of the way just in time. It's a good thing he's got superspeed, allowing him to move approximately 160km/hr!


Did You Know?
Caffeine, Street Drugs and other Psychoactive Substances have shown to have a predictable effect on the web-building abilities of common house spiders. Oh no! Spinderella is trying to shoot Spiderman with her Spider Silk. He darts out of the way, and takes aims to shoot back. I'm not sure if Spiderman's web is made out of the same stuff as Spinderella, but if it is, they better watch where they're shooting that stuff. Spider Silk is the strongest naturally occurring organic fibre, and has a tensile strength comparable to high-grade steel.


Did You Know?
Spider silk is a protein formed by silk glands that is squeezed out of spinnerets on a spider's belly in a liquid form. It hardens as it leaves the spinneret and can be stronger than a steel thread of the same diameter. He's got her!! Spinderella is all tangled up in Spiderman's web! It appears to be a TKO and Spiderman is declared the winner!! Sometimes it just doesn't pay to have eight legs. Spiderman walks out of the gym with Mary Jane on his arm, while Spinderella, marches off in a huff, tearing off a piece of her mate's head as she exists the ring. Sore loser much??

Learn More!

Sony Pictures: Spider-Man 3

Marvel Database: Spiderman

National Geographic: Spiderman vs.True Spider Superpowers

More about Spider Anatomy and Physiology. Click Here

The Arachnology Homepage

Spiderman 3 Trailer

Photo credit: Sony Pictures

Visit the Marvel Superheroes Exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto!

Actual Mathematical Equations Calculating the Tensile Strength of Spidey's Web. Click Here

Iris is a Science Communication Student at Science North/Laurentian University and has a B. Sc. in Civil Engineering. Her superpowers include web slinging (but the internet kind), climbing walls (but with a harness and rope), and weaving her web (a.k.a. knitting).

Iris Liu

I am a medical student at the UBC, Island Medical Program. Between coordinating for Gene skool, learning about medicine, and playing on my guitar, percussing my food and co-managing the In the News section of CurioCity, I occasionally wonder when I sleep! But all is well when I take the time to just reflect on the day by reading my Bible and writing plays about a fictional character named Cindy.

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