Spiderman's Web

Most of us have seen the comic strip character Spiderman. The premise of the character is fictitious and pure fantasy, not even good science fiction, but the nature of spider webbing continues to be an area that researchers are finding very incredible. Spider web material is about one tenth the diameter of a human hair, but it is ten times stronger than steel on a weight-for-weight basis. As chemists study the dragline silk--the part of the spider web that makes up the spokes of a spider's web--they find that the chemical makeup is a demonstration of genius level designing.

Two proteins make up dragline silk. Each protein contains three regions with distinct properties. The first makes a form that is called amorphous. An amorphous material is a plastic material like bubble gum that is stretchable. This is what gives the spider's web its huge elasticity, so when the spider's prey hits the web, it stretches and does not break. Embedded in the amorphous parts of the web are two kinds of crystalline material. These crystalline materials toughen the web. They are tightly pleated and resist stretching, but only one of them is truly rigid. What happens is that the pleats of the less rigid material anchors the rigid crystals to the matrix producing massive strength in the whole matrix.

One of the reasons that massive research is being done on spider webs is that all of this chemical design has enormous numbers of applications for new fabrics and fibers. Chemists are learning from their examination of web materials about things that science was totally unaware of until recent years. It is pretty obvious that a master chemist has designed these materials to meet specific needs of animals in the natural world, and man's ability to copy what God has done continues to give man the solutions to his problems and a hope for a better tomorrow. This same Designer has a plan for each of our lives, and that plan is also full of the same level of wisdom and the purpose of God.

--Reference: Scientific American, October 2002, page 107.

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