Spiderman really could have stopped a runaway train with his web, discovers Wisbech physics student

12:03 26 February 2013

James Forster

James Forster


WHILE most of his research was about more weighty subjects, Wisbech physics student James Forster had a problem that was bugging him - could Spiderman really have stopped a train with his webbing?

In the film Spiderman 2, the super hero manages to stop a runaway train moments before plummeting over the end of the track, and 22-year-old James has joined with two other students to discover that a huge spider’s web really could have been strong enough to avert a catastrophe.

James is the son of Wisbech Clarkson Surgery GPs Ruth and David Forster. and his research published by the University of Leicester has gone global this week.

“Its all very exciting,” said his mother Ruth. “His grandfather and cousins in Toronto have already read about it in their newspaper in Canada.

“James did a lot of research about losing heat in space, and the Spiderman research was really for fun. But they discovered that a web would have stopped a train, if thousands of spiders could create a big enough web.”

James, is a former pupil of Wisbech Grammar School, and his brother Edward, 21, is also a student at the University of Leicester, studying biological sciences.

The students’ Spiderman paper called Doing Whatever a Spider Can, was published by James and his two flatmates in a University of Leicester journal, along with other original short papers written by final year students on the Master of Physics course.

To come to their conclusion, the students calculated the forced needed to stop four New York City subway cars, and the toughness of a web from Darwin’s Bark Spider, the strongest known webbing of any spider.

James said: “While our work may not seem to be very serious, it has helped teach us about applying physics to varying situations.”

Dr Mervyn Roy, a lecturer at the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: “A lot of the papers published in the journal are on subjects that are amusing, topical, or a bit off-the-wall. Our fourth year students are nothing if not creative.”


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