A View from Henry Jenkins

Calling Peter Parker...

Last week, I posted about the efforts to build a Star Trek-style communicator. It seems everyone wants to create the toys of their childhood imagination. The California State Highway Patrol has sent out a call for researchers to help develop…

  • April 27, 2004

Last week, I posted about the efforts to build a Star Trek-style communicator. It seems everyone wants to create the toys of their childhood imagination. The California State Highway Patrol has sent out a call for researchers to help develop a “spider gun” which would quickly extrude a web which they can use to stop suicidal jumpers on the Golden Gate bridge.

“At this point we’re about ready to put out a request for a proposal,” said California Highway Patrol spokesman Tom Marshall. “And we’ll just see if there’s some technology that might be usable.”

After all, in the comics and in the movies, geeky teen Peter Parker manages to whip up spiderweb substances and a shooting mechanism in an afternoo. How hard can it be?

Of course, the California Highway Patrol better get the stuff Spiderman used in the movies and not in the comicbooks. In the Stan Lee–Jack Kirby comic books, when his girlfriend, Gwen Stacey, was thrown by the Green Goblin off a bridge, he tries to grab her with his webbing and snaps her neck. In the movie, when Green Goblin throws Mary Jane off the same bridge, Spiderman successfully rescues her and she lives. Obviously, the filmmakers knew something about elasticity that the comic creators did not.

For more information on the science of Superheroes, check out this nifty BBC website.

The real question is whether to file this story under Biotechnology or Material Science – I suppose it depends on which boy (or girl) wonder comes up with the solution.

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