MIT scientists translated spider webs into music. It could help us talk to them
April 14, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.
Compression ratio: 65.2%. 2 min read.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have turned spider webs into music -- creating an eerie soundtrack that could help them better understand how the arachnids spin their complex creations and even how they communicate.
(CNN)Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have turned spider webs into music -- creating an eerie soundtrack that could help them better understand how the arachnids spin their complex creations and even how they communicate.
The MIT team worked with Berlin-based artist Tomás Saraceno to take two-dimensional laser scans of a spider web, which were stitched together and converted into a mathematical model that could recreate the web in 3D in virtual reality.
"Even though the web looks really random, there actually are a lot of internal structures and you can visualize them and you can look at them, but it's really hard to grasp for the human imagination or human brain to understand all these structural details," said MIT engineering professor Markus Buehler, who presented the work on Monday at a virtual meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Listening to the music while moving through the VR spider web lets you see and hear these structural changes and gives a better idea of how spiders see the world, he told CNN.
"Spiders have very keen vibrational sensors, they use vibrations as a way to orient themselves, to communicate with other spiders and so the idea of thinking literally like a spider would experience the world was something that was very obvious to us as spider material scientists," Buehler said.
Spiders are able to build their webs without scaffolding or supports, so having a better idea of how they work could lead to the development of advanced new 3D printing techniques, he said.
They scanned the web while the spider was building it and Buehler compared it to a stringed instrument that changes as the structure becomes more complex.
Buehler said they've recorded the vibrations spiders create during different activities, such as building a web, courtship signals and communicating with other spiders, and are using artificial intelligence to create synthetic versions.
In addition to the scientific value, Buehler said the webs are musically interesting and that you can hear the melodies the spider creates during construction.
"The reason why I did that is I wanted to be able to transfer information really from the spider perspective, which is very atonal and weird and spooky, if you wish, to something that is more human," Buehler said.