It turns out that scene in 2004’s Spider-Man 2 in which Peter Parker used his webbing to stop a subway train from hurtling off the tracks and into the river may have been the least-outlandish thing about the movie.
Playing MythBusters, physics students from the University of Leicester put the sequence to the test and discovered that, yes, some spider silk is strong enough to stop a runaway train. Their findings were published in the new issue of the Journal of Physics Special Topics, which is undoubtedly on pull lists everywhere.
Wired.com reports the scientists calculated the weight of four New York City subway cars, and factored in speed and resistance. Then they figured out how much force the webbing would need to exert to stop the train, which ends up being “about 12 times the amount of force exerted by a large American alligator as its jaws snap shut.” After that, my eyes glazed over. But the takeaway is that the properties of the silk produced by Darwin’s Bark Spider, a native of Madagascar, matches what Toby Maguire would’ve needed for that scene from Spider-Man 2.
Hopefully next the researchers will turn their attention to that dance scene from Spider-Man 3. Alas, that may defy scientific explanation.