While lots of people out there don’t want anything to do with walking through a spiderweb or the arachnids themselves, at some point, most of us have probably stood back and admired the complexity of a spiderweb. Spiders can weave strands of silk into incredibly intricate 3D webs serving as both the home for the spider and hunting grounds for prey. Scientists at MIT have translated the structure of a spiderweb into music.
The researchers believe the technique could have applications ranging from improved 3D printers to cross-species communication and new musical compositions. Researcher Marcus Buehler, Ph.D., says that the spider lives in an environment of vibrating strings. Spiders don’t see well, but they can sense the world through vibrations that have different frequencies.
Those vibrations allow the spider to tell the difference between wind hitting its web or a trapped insect it wants to eat. Buehler wondered if rhythms and melodies can be extracted from spiderwebs and other natural materials. The technique was also hoped to allow the researchers to gain insights into the 3D architecture and the construction of spiderwebs.
The researcher scanned a natural spiderweb with the laser to capture 2D cross-sections and then used computer algorithms to reconstruct the web network. Different frequencies of sound were assigned to strands of the web to create notes, and the notes were then combined in patterns based on the 3D structure of the web to generate melodies.
The team then created a harp-like instrument and played the spiderweb music in live performances around the world. A virtual reality setup also allowed people to visually and audibly enter the spiderweb. Researchers also explored how the sound of a web changes as it is exposed to different mechanical forces such as stretching. Researchers are also interested in communicating with spiders in their language. They recorded web vibrations produced when the spiders performed different activities, including web building and communicating with other spiders. They are trying to generate synthetic signals to speak the language of the spider.