Spider-Man's Many Powers
Can Spin A Web, Any Size
Anyone who has seen even a brief moment of Spider-Man cartoon or movie footage can tell you that the character is clearly an athletic guy. And just going by the name, Spider-Man, it is clear that he probably has some sort of web-making powers, right? Of course.
But what exactly are Spider-Man's different abilities, and what are the extent of his powers? This article should help clarify the different powers and skills granted to Peter Parker by the bite of a radioactive spider, as well as the genius additions to his persona that the junior scientist developed on his own.
Abilities Granted By A Spider's Bite
Most of the feats that Spider-Man can accomplish are the result of abilities granted by the bite of a radioactive spider (but don't try to repeat this success at home). One of the most basic of these powers is Spidey's proportionate speed and strength of a spider. The assumption there is that many actual spiders are able to move about 10 times their own body mass. That's not that impressive when something that only weighs 1 mg is moving something that's 10 mg, but scale that up to human size, and it becomes a different story. Spidey does even better than that, though: this hero can lift about ten tons, enough to press a tank.
As for his speed, Spidey's powers here manifest themselves in several impressive ways. First off is his spider-agility, which allows him to maintain his balance and muscular coordination even under the most stressful circumstances. He can easily run across a suspended wire, dodge a hail of gunfire, or somersault over a gang of bad guys.
The next nifty power Spidey has is the spider-leap, which allows him to jump the width of a city block, or five stories straight up. A useful power to have when you want to avoid bullets, bad guys, pumpkin bombs, or do your best to be like Mike.
Spider-Man also has the power of wall-crawling, a power he initially discovered accidentally when he jumped out of the way of a speeding car and stuck to the nearest brick building. Thanks to tiny, nearly-invisible filaments coming out of the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet, Spidey can mimic the ability of a spider to climb up a shear surface, which is a useful party trick at the very least. Although Spider-Man tends to use it more as a means of sneaking up on villains by climbing the ceiling and approaching from above.
And Spider-Man's final power granted by the spider's bite is his eponymous spider-sense, which warns him of any incoming danger. Which is somewhat like how a spider knows if it is about to be swatted, and so quickly gets out of the way. This is visualized as a series of wavy lines emitting from Spider-Man's head, but we do not know exactly what Spider-Man is hearing or seeing internally (maybe an alarm clock? trumpet blast?). The spider-sense is useful, but it does not always clearly alert Spidey to exactly what the the danger is, and some of his villains, such as Venom, are outright undetectable by this ability.
But why is Venom unable to be perceived by Spider-Man's spider-sense. In short, it is because the costume that Venom wears is actually an alien symbiote that was previously bonded to Spider-Man (it was his infamous black costume). When Spider-Man rejected the symbiote, it chose to bond with another host, but used its understanding of Spider-Man's physiognomy to mask itself from his presence. Pretty sneaky, alien symbiote.
Spider-Man does not only rely on powers he got from a spider bite. No, that would be silly. He has also developed a couple of gadgets to aid in his crime-fighting and general spidery activities. The first of these are his web-shooters, which Parker created as a means of swinging from buildings. That's right, Parker created them, and they were not a result of the spider's bite, as the first three Spider-Man movies posited.
The web-shooters are filled with a liquid web-fluid that is released when Spidey double-taps his palm (this keeps the fluid from flying out whenever he makes a fist). Spider-Man can easily change the consistency of the web from thin to thick, and once something is webbed up, it stays that way. The tensile strength is 120 pounds per square millimeter (about as strong as steel), so those webs are pretty secure until the fluid dissolves after an hour.
Another one of Spider-Man's clever inventions is his spider-tracer, which can be shot surreptitiously at a fleeing goon so that Spidey can track him down later. He does this using an electronic signal in the tracer that is tuned to his spider-sense, so that he feels the signal in his head as he gets close to the tracer.
And finally, Spider-Man developed the one and only spider-signal as a way to safely explore dark and foreboding places. Okay, okay, so it's a flashlight with Spider-Man's face on it. Not every invention is a winner, you know?
Are Spider-Man's Powers Plausible?
An Academic Study
So, now you know what Spider-Man's powers are, or at least the ones that count. We will leave aside the time Spidey was murdered and resurrected as a totem of the Spider-God, and given the ability to shoot spikes out of his forearms. Honestly, the less said about that, the better.
But is it really possible for someone to swing from rooftop to rooftop like everyone's favorite wall-crawler? As the following video from Emory University explains, one of the dangers of swinging around the city skyline would be jerking your shoulder out of the socket. However, allowing for the possibility of super-powers in the first place, such as Spider-Man's spider-strength, it does appear that at least one academic is willing to go on the record that web-slinging is a perfectly plausible activity. Meanwhile, we'll be waiting for that hobby to supplant bungee-jumping as a death-defying means of recreation for adrenaline junkies.