Spider web

A team of researchers at MIT in the USA has translated the structure of a spider web into music, which could have applications ranging from — better 3D printers to cross-species communication and otherworldly musical compositions.

The findings will be exhibited at the forthcoming spring meeting of the — American Chemical Society (ACS).

“The spider lives in an environment of vibrating strings. They don’t see very well, so they sense their world through vibrations, which have different frequencies,” said Markus Buehler, from MIT.
Such vibrations occur, for instance — when the spider stretches a silk strand during construction, or when the wind or a trapped fly moves the web.
In the study, the team scanned a natural spider web with a laser to capture 2D cross-sections & afterward used computer algorithms to reconstruct the web’s 3D network. They assigned various frequencies of sound to strands of the web, making “notes” that they combined in patterns based on the web’s 3D structure to produce songs.
The team also made a virtual reality setup that — permitted people to visually & audibly “enter” the web.

“The virtual reality environment is really intriguing because your ears are going to pick up structural features that you might see but not immediately recognize,” Buehler says. “By hearing it and seeing it at the same time, you can really start to understand the environment the spider lives in.”

The step-by-step knowledge of how a spider builds a web could help in devising “spider-mimicking” 3D printers that build complex microelectronics.

The team explored how the sound of a web changes as it’s exposed to different mechanical forces, such as — stretching. Further, in a bid to communicate with spiders in their own language they recorded web vibrations produced when spiders performed different activities, such as building a web, communicating with other spiders, or sending courtship signals.

Although the frequencies sounded similar to the human ear, a machine learning algorithm correctly classified the sounds into various activities. “Now we’re trying to generate synthetic signals to basically speak the language of the spider,” Buehler said.

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