Spider-Man's webbing could ACTUALLY stop a runaway train

While you watched your 193,482nd Harlem Shake video to date, a few Masters of Physics students (read: scientists in training) at the UK's University of Leicester were busy answering questions vital to the success of humanity. Like, "Could Spider-Man actually stop a speeding train with his webbing?"

Think back to Spider-Man 2 (the Tobey Maguire one after the upside down kiss one, but before the black-and-white evil Spider-Man one). Spider-Man's on a runaway train and the tracks end so everyone's about to careen over the edge to certain death.

SPOILER ALERT: He saves the day. You know why? Science. Here's how the Masters of Physics students figured it out.

First, they worked out that the force required to bring four New York subways cars carrying 984 people to a stop is roughly 300,000 Newtons. Then, taking into account the geometry of the front of the train and the subway passage the web would have to anchor to, the students calculated that the stiffness of the web would have to be 3.12 gigapascals—well within the 1.5–12 gigapascals range of the silk webs produced by orb-weave spiders. And finally, the toughness required was almost 500 megajoules per cubic meter; a figure matched by the giant slink constructions of Darwin’s Bark spider (Caerostris darwini), the orb-weave spider with the strongest known webs.

Keep making the world a better place, guys. [TheScientist]