Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Those Nasty Spider Webs

We all feel disgusted and violated when we step into an unseen spider web. What good can that material possibly be?

Well, it just so happens that the silk of a spider can be rather handy. Until WWII, spider silk was used for crosshairs in optical devices, including microscopes, telescopes, guns, and bombing systems. Today, some military facilities still keep a spider around to provide the crosshairs in old instruments.

To this day, Australian aborigines still use the silk of a giant spider for fishing lines.

Another benefit of spider silk seems to be nearly unbelievable. It is a known fact that spider silk is stronger than steel of the same diameter. Consequently, scientists are in the process of developing spider silk for use in the next generation of bulletproof vests. Currently, bulletproof vests are made of Kevlar, which provides a dependable barrier against bullets. Soldiers and police personnel, however report that Kevlar vests are heavy; inflexible and hot to wear. Vests made of spider silk may resolve these problems.

In addition to being super strong, spider silk is also very elastic. One teaspoon of spider silk can be stretched to almost three miles. If it were possible to create a strand of pencil-thick spider silk, it would be capable of stopping a Boeing 747 in full flight!

Maybe those spider webs aren’t so nasty after all.

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