Professor explains the surprisingly legit physics of Spider-Man

professor explains the surprisingly legit physics of spider man amazingspiderman

Let’s say you walk into a screening of The Amazing Spider-Man. You settle into your seat, grab a handful of overly salted popcorn and shut off your higher brain functions in preparation to be wowed by the spectacle of a teenage boy who’s been granted all the really cool parts of being a spider, without any of the gross, arachnoid body features. “All of this is silly make-believe comic book stuff,” you imagine, comfortable in your certainty that Andrew Garfield does not routinely swing through the streets of New York City suspended by a small, super-strong line of silk.

While we will readily admit that Mr. Garfield probably has better things to do than punch out muggers, the rest of the scenario is surprisingly possible. Well, almost. Watch the video embedded at bottom, created by Emory University math professor Skip Garibaldi, that explains why Spidey’s acrobatic swinging and seemingly indestructible webbing isn’t as far-fetched as you’d think.

Done? Okay, so as much as we appreciate Professor Garibaldi lending credence to our goal of one day living inside the mind of Stan Lee, there are still a few pretty big hurdles the Spider-Man mythos has to leap before we can claim that it’s a document of fact. First, though Garibaldi claims that Spidey’s webbing could, in the right circumstances, function as it does in The Amazing Spider-Man, he does allow that for Spider-Man to swing on it, and use the webbing to anchor himself to buildings, that he would need to be phenomenally, unrealistically strong.

“He was bitten by a radioactive spider! Obviously he has the proportional strength of the toughest arachnid!” you scream, spraying tiny drops of rage spittle across your monitor.

While comic book logic dictates that being bitten by a radioactive animal will give you the most awesome features of said animal, in reality you’d most likely just end up with a rather unfortunate wound. Assuming the spider that bit Peter Parker wasn’t killed by the dose of radiation it received (and assuming it isn’t one of those rare poisonous species), Parker would likely have been left with an annoying itch or, at worst, a slow-healing sore. Unless muscle cramping is a super power, that part of the mythos doesn’t really hold up.

Likewise, in addition to super strength, Spider-Man’s entire body would have to become far more resistent to damage. Remember that scene in Spider-Man 2 where Spidey stops a speeding subway car by webbing it to nearby buildings and using his body as a brake? If any of you were to attempt such a stunt your arms wouldn’t even get a chance to become tired, as the massive forces involved would simply pull your shoulders apart. You’d likely go into shock and bleed all over the passengers at the front of the train, shortly before the whole thing crashes into the Hudson River. That’s what you get for trying to play the hero.

Still, fallacies of comic book logic aside, its comforting to know that such an iconic superhero does actually have a claim to legitimacy, even if it’s only based on hypothetical physics and ungodly amounts of the silk that comes from a spider’s butt. However, if our counterpoints have left you soured on the idea of trying to become Spider-Man, we would instead direct you to the far more attainable goal of being Batman. For only $682 million you too could join the superhero biz, and barring any unfortunate cowl-related accidents, you’ll even get to keep both of your arms.


These are the best video games you shouldn't leave 2018 without

Developers showed up with a number of amazing games this year. Each capitalized on something unique but there's always one that outdoes them all. Here are our picks for the best video games of 2018 and game of the year.
Movies & TV

'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' is one of the hero's best movies ever

One of Spider-Man's most memorable big-screen adventures, animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse simultaneously feels like nothing we've ever seen before and a tale that feels familiar in all the best ways.

The third DLC for ‘Spider-Man’ swings onto PlayStation 4 next week

The third part of Spider-Man's episodic DLC, Silver Lining, releases on December 21. The episode focuses on Silver Sable and Hammerhead, and it includes three new suits for Peter Parker.
Movies & TV

The best Amazon Original series, from 'Bosch' to 'Transparent'

Amazon Studios may not have as big a collection of in-house productions as Netflix, but there are still lots of shows worthy of your eyeballs. Here are our picks for the best Amazon original series.
Home Theater

Looking for the best 4K Ultra HD TVs you can buy? Here are five great options

If it's time to upgrade your old 1080p to a new 4K model but you don't know what to look for, fear not, as we're here with a list of the best 4K Ultra HD TVs to help make your buying process as easy as possible.
Movies & TV

HBO Go vs. HBO Now: Which streaming service is right for you?

If you're looking to get access to HBO, you might be comparing HBO Go and HBO Now. We break down the differences between the twin streaming services and see how they compare to one another.
Movies & TV

Sit down and watch some of the best stand-up comedy on Netflix

Feeling a little funny? There are hundreds of hilarious comedy specials out there, and you can't be expected to comb through them all. Lucky for you, we've compiled a list of the best stand-up specials on Netflix.
Movies & TV

Lose the torrents. Here's how to watch 'Game of Thrones' online (legally)

Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on TV, but unless you're a cable subscriber, finding a way to watch isn't always easy. Check out our guide on how to watch online, whether you prefer using HBO, Hulu, or Amazon.
Home Theater

Kill your cable and switch to streaming with our painless guide

If you're going to quit cable or satellite for a streaming TV solution, you're going to want to get it right the first time. We've outlined exactly how to get started, step by step. Follow our lead, and you'll never look back.

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Home Theater

What’s new on Netflix and what’s leaving in January 2019

Our complete list of what's new on Netflix for January 2019 and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on your bingeing, and also ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming ether.
Movies & TV

Our first look at 'The Punisher' season 2 hints at January 2019 premiere

The Punisher is getting a second season on Netflix, with Jon Bernthal returning to play Marvel Comics' gun-toting antihero, Frank Castle. Here's everything we know about season 2 of The Punisher so far.
Movies & TV

Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’ sequel conjures up a director and a release date

Doctor Strange director and co-writer Scott Derrickson will return to helm the Sorcerer Supreme's next big-screen adventure. Filming will begin in 2020, after Strange's mysterious Avengers: Endgame fate is resolved.
Movies & TV

Pedro Pascal officially cast as 'The Mandalorian' as Disney show fills out cast

The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series planned for Disney's streaming video service, will be one of the most expensive television shows ever made. Here's everything we know about it so far.