Pentagon Funds Real-Life Spider-Man Tech

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Or, more accurately, “Beetle-Man.” Wired’s Danger Room blog reports Darpa—the gonzo R&D wing of the U.S. military that gave us the Internet—is funding a team at Cornell who are working on gadgets that may one day allow a person to climb walls like a bug:

Dr. Paul Steen, lead researcher on the project, envisions shoes or gloves that can bear loads while they stick and unstick to walls. Estimates that extrapolate from the research paper conclude that a three-by-five inch plate on the sole of a shoe could support a fully-grown, 225 lb man.

Unlike gecko-inspired wall-walkers, which couldn’t scale slippery surfaces, the device can handle water and adhere to “wood, brick, linoleum, plastics, metals, and other surfaces of various roughness.” It also offers instant release, by reversing the electrical charge, so that a load (or a person) can stick and unstick easily.

Because of their massive surface tension, the gadgets might also come in handy to blow stuff up.