Monday, June 24, 2013

danyelle recommends Stronger Than Steel by Bridget Heos

Because spider silk is stronger than steel and stretchier than nylon, it could, in theory, be used to make amazing artificial ligaments or tendons, parachute rope, fishing line, and bulletproof vests.  In theory.  This book, like others in The Scientist in the Field Series, examines the way theory becomes practical science.  Author Bridget Heos does that by taking readers inside Dr. Randy Lewis's spider silk lab.  Instead of presenting neatly wrapped-up answers, Stronger Than Steel looks at questions, ideas, and the search for answers.  By explaining concepts, problems, limitations, and the work in progress, Heos lets readers experience scientific process.

Why can't spider silk be harvested by domestically raised spiders?  Well, they would eat each other, and according to one of the scientists, Sherry Adrianos, "If you try to raise spiders together, you'll be left with one big spider" (12).  One solution might be transgenic goats that would produce spider silk in their milk.  Heos introduces readers to the scientists, the goats, and the ethical question surrounding genetically modified organisms.  Another solution might be raising silk worms that could spin spider silk, but although transgenic silkworms have spun silk that was a mixture of regular silk and spider silk, scientists don't know if the silkworms will be able to spin pure spider silk.

The balance between scientific explanation and human interest works nicely and may inspire readers to wonder, learn, and try some science of their own.

Beautiful photographs by Andy Comins show the scientists at work, the goats at play, and of course, the spiders.

Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope
by Bridget Heos
photographs by Andy Comins
published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
February 2013
Recommended for ages 10 and up

1 comment:

  1. Wow! It sounds really interesting. I will have to pick it up this summer.