– In the 1960’s Stan Lee
was trying to come up with new superheroes for Marvel Comics. He wanted new powers that
hadn’t been done before and found inspiration from a spider that he saw crawling on a wall and just like that he
had his new character. A hero with the power to stick to walls, Spider-Man. Now whether or not you believe that story, which Stan himself even
implies is probably not true, the point is that clinging to walls is a defining characteristic
of Spider-Man. But a recent scientific study has shown that it would be impossible
for the old wall crawler to actually crawl walls and I
wanna know how true that is. (heavy metal electric guitar music) What’s this, another Spider-Man video? I know, I know the channel
is starting to look a little spider heavy as of late. If you follow me on Snapchat you know that I was planning on making
a cyborg video this week but since this spider science
has been sweeping the internet I couldn’t resist digging in myself. Plus you guys voted on Twitter so look I mean I don’t have to explain myself. This is my show! We’re gonna talk about Spider-Man. As I said, making its way around
the internet very recently was a study published in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences that disproved Spider-Man’s
ability to cling to walls. Two interesting things about this study. Number one it was actually
published in December of 2015 but for some reason the
entire internet decided to talk about it all at
once over a month later. Number two nowhere in this study does it actually mention
Spider-Man at all. Seriously, go read it or at the very least control F that thing for Spider-Man, it is nowhere and as a comics fan that makes me really, really happy that we as a culture seem
to instinctively relate new scientific studies with superheroes. I love this time. We live in a great time. Anyway the study is called Extreme Positive Allometry
of Animal Adhesive Pads and the Size limits of
Adhesion-based Climbing and I can sense that you’re
already wanting to click away from the video but I promise
super interesting stuff. Before we get into this
study, we should take a look at the comics to see how they explain Spider-Man’s clinging ability. How exactly does the
wall crawler crawl walls in the first place? We get our answer in the
form of several entries in several editions of
The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. It’s stated quite clearly,
although not exactly confidently, that Spider-Man quote
“apparently has the ability “to mentally control the flux
of inter-atomic interaction “between the molecular boundary layers. “This ability to affect the
attraction between surfaces “is limited to Spider-Man’s
body (especially concentrated “in his hands and feet) and another object “with an upper limit of
several tons per finger.” Okay so that sounded like
a bunch of weird nonsense but is there any truth behind the science of this explanation? Actually, yeah the way
that animals like spiders or even geckos stick to walls is thanks to tiny hair-like structures called setae which are tipped with hundreds of even smaller structures
called septulae. You might notice that
these kinda look similar to what the 2002 Sam Raimi
Spider-Man movie showed growing out of Peter Parker’s hands. So good job movies. These microscopic projections are key because they exploit a
phenomenon in physics knows as Intermolecular Forces. Sometimes under the catch all
term of van der Waals Forces. Van der Waals to stand on walls, sort of. Picture a molecule that has electrons zipping
around unpredictably. We like to imagine that
these electrons line up in a nice structured pattern but it’s really a lot
more chaotic than that. Statistically there are
way more configurations where the electrons are
out of order than in order. Sometimes you’ll have
the molecule’s electrons all grouped to one side of the atom which gives that side a
slight negative charge and the opposite side a
slight positive charge. If you introduce another molecule which just so happens to
have its electrons structured in a similar fashion,
the two will be attracted towards one another via one molecule’s slightly positive charged side and the other’s slightly
negatively charged side. The setae in a gecko’s
toes or Pete’s hands have fluctuating electrons
and if those tiny hairs become slightly negatively
charged for even just a moment they repel the electrons in
the molecules of the wall since like charges repel each other and create a slight
positive charge in the wall. Opposite charges attract so
an attractive force is created between Spidey and the wall. This is what I believe
the Marvel Handbook meant by Spider-Man having the
ability to control the flux of interatomic forces between molecules. You might be wondering
how this power could work through his costume. Spider-Man wears a full body suit. That would totally get in the way right? As far as I know this has
never been fully explained in the comics but we do know
it’s one of the main reasons why Spider-Man wears a thin
skin-tight spandex costume. When Steve Ditko was designing
the character’s costume, he remarked how a clinging
power wouldn’t work if he gave Spider-Man
hard, thick shoes or boots. The suit had to be something form fitting and thin enough to allow for this ability to work through his costume. And that’s why there
have been times when Pete has had to take off his shoes to use his wall crawling ability when he’s wearing civilian clothes. I know The Marvel Handbook explanation says that each of Spider-Man’s
fingertips can support several tons each but van
der Waals Forces are so weak that Spider-Man would need
billions upon billions of these tiny hairs all over his body for that force to add up
and support his weight. And that’s where this recent
study comes into play. Researchers examined 225 different species of climbing animals from
amphibians, insects, lizards and of course spiders
to observe the limits of their climbing abilities
in correlation with body size. As you might expect, creatures
with a smaller body mass only need a tiny percentage
of their surface area to be covered in adhesive pads in order to support their
own weight when climbing. You can see in this handy
scale that ants on average need about .09% of their body surface area to be covered in sticky foot pads. Spiders need a bit more at just under 1%, geckos need about 4.3%
and humans would need a whopping 40% of our total body surface or about 80% of just the front of us to be covered by adhesive pads. According to one of the senior authors of the study Walter
Federle, if humans wanted to climb walls like a gecko
quote “We’d need impractically “large sticky feet and
shoes in European size 145 “or US size 114”. Just for comparison The
Guinness Book of World Records recognizes this man as the record holder for the biggest feet and his
shoes are still just size 26. So that’s it. We can all give up on our dreams of being Spider-Man because
science says it’s impossible. We’ll never be able to scale tall New York sky scrapers. Not that I would want
to, it sounds terrifying. I have a very prominent fear of cities. But hold on, if saying that
Spidey would need 40 to 80% of his body covered in
those microscopic hairs to stick to a surface
seems a bit overkill, that’s because the researchers
were basing it off of naturally occurring setae
in animals like the gecko. And sure making the surface area bigger to accommodate for bigger
animals like us humans is certainly one solution
but another would be to instead make Spider-Man clingier. Thankfully ingenious scientists
at Stanford University’s Department of Mechanical
Engineering have created something even better than gecko toes. You can see a video of it here. They are hand grips with
a connected foot support that allows for us large,
awkward, clunky humans to overcome gravity and scale buildings and I do mean just buildings. These pads work best on
smooth surfaces like glass but don’t work great on uneven surfaces that you might find out in nature. But that’s fine, Spider-Man
is all about the city. So as long as I can
still climb skyscrapers wearing a Spider-Man onesie then I’d call this a victory for science. What do you guys think? How does Spider-Man’s
wall clinging power work and is it ever something that
we could effectively achieve either through tiny organic
hairs like Spider-Man or through technology? Let’s talk about it all in the comments and if you wanna learn more
about Spider-Man’s powers and abilities click right here
to learn about the history of his webshooters. Both organic webbing
and mechanical devices. I make a really insensitive
Gwen Stacy joke in it so click right here to check it out. And if you want more comic book science why not check out this video
on Deadpool’s healing factor? The movie is coming up
so impress your friends with this fun comic book theory about how Deadpool’s
cancer might actually be a beneficial mutation. Click here to watch that one. And make sure you hit that
big, sexy subscribe button so you don’t miss out
on all the new videos we make for you every week that explore the history, science, art and philosophy behind your favorite
comic book superheroes. My name is Scott and I
will see you right here on Friday for another video. See ya.

How Does SPIDER-MAN Stick To Walls? || Comic Misconceptions || NerdSync

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