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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2003

The Silk "STEEL" of a Spider

Pound for pound, the silk from certain kinds of spiders is five times stronger than steel, and is twice as strong as the material that currently makes up SWAT teams’ bulletproof vests. It can stretch 30 percent farther than the stretchiest known nylon, and is twice as flexible. Scientists have even discovered that spider silk can stretch 40 percent beyond its original length without breaking. In fact, due to its amazing strength and stretchiness, it has been said that you could trap a jumbo jet with spider silk that is the thickness of a pencil. To top it all off, the silk from spiders is waterproof.

Although spiders give most of us the creeps (which is why we choose to smash them rather than pamper them), these little creatures are on the cutting edge of technology; they are “jewels” to many scientists. Their silk is made up of chains of amino acids (protein)—an arrangement that is responsible for the silk’s amazing strength. Since scientists have found it too difficult to “outdo” what God created in the beginning, they have decided instead to try to use God’s special critters and the silk “steel” they produce. Believe it or not, scientists are attempting to produce spider silk on a mass scale by implanting spider-silk genes into the eggs of mother goats. With this procedure, scientists hope that the female offspring will be able to secrete the “spider silk” protein in their udders. As one scientist stated, “All we’ll have to do is milk the goats” in order to get the spider silk.

Can you imagine how useful it would be if we could produce our own spider silk? We could make soft, lightweight, bulletproof vests for policemen—vests that would absorb five times the impact of current ones. Scientists believe spider silk will one day be found in everything from non-tear sports jerseys, air bags, and fishing line to artificial tissues used by doctors to repair an athlete’s torn ligament.

Obviously, if scientists must spend thousandsof hours trying to design a way to reproduce spider silk, it makes no sense to believe that the natural silk that spiders make is a product of evolution (and non-intelligence). Spider silk is God’s“wonder material,” not evolution’s.

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