Was It Designed?
▪ It is lighter than cotton, yet ounce for ounce it is stronger than steel. For decades scientists have studied the silk produced by orb-weaving spiders. Dragline silk—the strongest of the seven silks these spiders can spin—has attracted the most attention. It is tougher and more waterproof than silkworm strands, which are commonly used in clothing.
Consider: The manufacture of industrial fibers such as Kevlar requires high temperatures and the use of organic solvents. In contrast, spiders produce silk at room temperature, using water as a solvent. Furthermore, dragline silk is tougher than Kevlar. If enlarged to the size of a football field, a web of dragline silk could stop a jumbo jet in flight!
Not surprisingly, researchers are intrigued by the toughness of dragline silk. “Scientists would like to exploit that property in items ranging from bulletproof vests to suspension cables for bridges,” writes Aimee Cunningham in Science News magazine.
But replicating dragline silk is not easy, for the material is made inside the spider’s body and the process is not yet fully understood. “It’s humbling to realize that a lot of very smart people are trying to replicate what the spiders in our basements can do naturally,” says biologist Cheryl Y. Hayashi, quoted in Chemical & Engineering News magazine.
What do you think? Did the spider and its strong-as-steel silk come about by chance, or is this the work of an intelligent Creator?
[Picture on page 24]
Microscopic view of spider silk being secreted
Copyright Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.