Stronger than Steel

Stronger than Steel
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Andy Comins

They have a touch so feather-light, it can barely be felt on human skin. The vividly gold and black colored golden orb weaver spider is the largest web-making spider on the planet. These elegant and efficient arachnids can weave impressive webs up to three feet wide in less than an hour. And these spiders' silk-spinning abilities could have far-reaching implications for science and medicine.

Meet the scientist Randy Lewis, a real-life Spider-man who may not be a crime-fighting action figure but who is a science superhero nonetheless. Peer into Randy's lab to discover how goats are being genetically implanted with the golden orb weavers' DNA to produce milk containing proteins that can be spun into nearly indestructible spider silk. Randy's groundbreaking transgenic research is helping to develop materials that are stronger and more flexible than Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests. His work with the transgenic "spider goats" could also help create stronger parachute rope, arresting wires to help planes land on air-craft carriers, more durable airbags for automobiles - and may even someday be used to mend broken bones and damage ligaments inside the human body.

In this, the very first Scientists in the Field book about genetics, the science writer Bridget Heos brings you face-to-face with golden orb weavers while revealing the amazing uses of transgenic technology. Investigate the basics of genetics, observe researchers working with transgenic plants and animals to save and improve lives, and consider for yourself the ethics of genetic research and scientific inquiry.

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