Aaron Santos: “Eat It, Spider-Man!”

In chapter 32 of How Many Licks, Aaron Santos estimates how much food Peter Parker would have to eat in order to produce an equivalent amount of web each day.

When it comes to superhero movies, one must always maintain some suspension of disbelief.  For instance, in the Spider-Man series, it’s perfect natural for audiences to believe that getting bitten by a radioactive spider gives you super powers, but are we really expected to believe all of that web came out of one body?  Isn’t there some physical law that says matter can’t be created on the fly? How many pounds of food does Peter Parker have to eat to produce an equivalent amount of web each day?

1) 4.6 pounds

2) 46 pounds

3) 460 pounds

[Helpful Hint: In the movies, it appears that webs can be about 20 m (~66 ft) long.  If each web takes him about 20 m (~66 ft) long, then he needs to shoot about 80 webs to travel a mile, which is reasonable distance for him to travel in a day.  In the movies, Spider-Man’s webs appear to be about 1.0 cm (~0.39 in). And the density of spider silk is about 1.3g/cm cubed (~0.58 oz/in cubed).

One thought on “Aaron Santos: “Eat It, Spider-Man!”

  1. What’s the volume of his spiderweb?
    pi * r^2 * height (assuming a cylindrical web) = 3.14 * 0.5 cm ^2 * 160000 cm (80 20-meter webs) = 125,600 cm^3

    What’s the mass?
    density * volume = 1.3 gm/cm^3 * 125,600 cm^3 = 163,280 g = 359 pounds

    Unless I’m missing something, I think that’s the answer given your hints. Of course, we’re assuming 100% conversion of food matter to web and also assuming that he cannot use other matter sources (air he breathes, magical micropores in his skin that can use ambient air, etc.). Maybe the spiderman anatomy is quite different than human anatomy and the respiratory system feeds his web glands directly. Or maybe his spiderwebs are made of some new nanomaterials that are incredibly light but still strong and sticky and our calculations are several orders of magnitude off.

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