Defying Gravity

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Defying Gravity

Real-life French Spider-Man Alain Robert doesn't need any special adhesives to scale walls. He just uses his bare hands.

Photo courtesy Emmanuel Aguirre /Getty Images

Although most of us are boringly bound by the force of gravity, evolution has helped some critters, like the gecko (and Spider-Man), circumvent that force. In order to ensure their survival, these animals garnered the ability to stick effortlessly to most walls and ceilings without leaving behind a sticky residue [source: NanoRobotics].

Scientists have been working to develop a synthetic adhesive that mimics the gecko's special dry stickiness for years, and such an invention is very close to becoming a reality, thanks to a new method of using plastic to create similar microscopic structures [source: Voshart].

In all likelihood, space will be the first destination for the new dry adhesives. Currently, the idea is that the technology will assist robots in the exploration of the final frontier, however, it's entirely plausible that the same principles could eventually be applied to replace everyday adhesives to which people have grown accustomed [sources: Voshart, Yang]. Goodbye, sticky tape. Hello, sticky feet.

Not that you should say goodbye to your beloved tape anytime soon. The design hasn't been perfected yet, and one of the problems currently hampering development is that in some cases, the adhesive is too sticky, making it difficult to remove once applied. So this superpower is still in the works.

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