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Scientists Translated Spiderwebs Into Music, And It's Beyond Stunning
[MICHELLE STARR 13 APRIL 2021]
Spiders rely quite significantly on touch to sense the world around them. Their bodies and legs are covered in tiny hairs and slits that can distinguish between different kinds of vibrations.
Prey blundering into a web makes a very different vibrational clamor from another spider coming a-wooing, or the stirring of a breeze, for example. Each strand of a web produces a different tone.
A few years ago, scientists translated the three-dimensional structure of a spider's web into music, working with artist Tomás Saraceno to create an interactive musical instrument, titled Spider's Canvas. Now the team has refined and built on that previous work, and added an interactive virtual reality component to allow people to enter and interact with the web.
This research, the team says, will not only help them better understand the three-dimensional architecture of a spider's web, but may even help us learn the vibrational language of spiders.
"The spider lives in an environment of vibrating strings," said engineer Markus Buehler of MIT. "They don't see very well, so they sense their world through vibrations, which have different frequencies."
When you think of a spider's web, you most likely think of the web of an orb weaver: flat, round, with radial spokes around which the spider constructs a spiral net. Most spiderwebs, however, are not of this kind, but built in three dimensions - like sheet webs, tangle webs, and funnel webs, for example.
To explore the structure of these kinds of webs, the team housed a tropical tent-web spider (Cyrtophora citricola) in a rectangular enclosure, and waited for it to fill the space with a three-dimensional web. Then they used a sheet laser to illuminate and crea
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