Biochemist Calculates How Many Eggs Spider-Man Needs to Eat for Breakfast

Thursday, 29 January 2015 - 2:28PM
Spider-Man
Thursday, 29 January 2015 - 2:28PM
Biochemist Calculates How Many Eggs Spider-Man Needs to Eat for Breakfast

What does Spider-Man eat for breakfast? In an essay for The Conversation, Mark Lorch, senior lecturer in biological chemistry at University of Hull, has used hard science to answer the question that you probably never thought to ask.

 

"While stuck in a hotel room I got sucked into watching the 2002 Spider-Man movie," wrote Lorch. "And it struck me that Peter Parker must have an enormously high-protein diet to generate all that spider silk he goes through. So being the geek that I am, I wondered what his protein consumption has to be to sustain his villain-beating lifestyle." 

 

First he calculated the thickness of the silk fiber that would be necessary in order to support Spider-Man's weight. He cited Peter Parker's weight as 75kg according to Marvel's official directory, and performed his calculations based on the physical properties of dragline silk produced by the European garden spider Araneus diadematus. This silk has the tensile strength of a piano wire, and therefore could, believe it or not, actually hold Spider-Man's weight at less than 1 mm thick.

 

He then made the assumption that Spider-Man uses approximately 100 m of silk for the average world-saving session, and used this number to calculate generally how much protein he would need to eat in the morning in order to output so much spider silk. "Silk is slight heavier than water, which means that 100m of the wire would weight about 87g. There is about 6g of protein in an egg. So it looks like Spidey only needs about 15 eggs for breakfast if he plans to use 100m of silk. That's not too bad."

 

This wouldn't be so bad, he qualifies, except that the majority of egg protein does not consist of the type of protein necessary to produce spider silk. As a result, he would actually need to consume four times the amount of egg protein in his production of silk protein, which means a total of 60 eggs per day. This is a little less reasonable.

 

And that's only the average crime-fighting session, not even a particularly difficult one. During the 2002 Spider-Man film, Peter saves Mary Jane when she is about to fall to her death by jumping off a balcony and catching her. The fact that he was falling (for seven seconds, and therefore about 240 m, according to Lorch) would exponentially increase the force exerted on the silk. According to Lorch's calculations, the fall from 240 m would cause the force to be 35 times Peter and MJ's combined weight, which would mean he would need significantly more spider silk to catch them than the calculated average. 

 

"Taking into account the length of the fall (240m) and the extra force, he will need 1.3 kg of silk to catch his fall. So I reckon he must have had about 900 eggs for breakfast that morning, just to have enough silk for that one scene. I think Aunt May might have noticed."

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