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Scientists Created Haunting Music From Spiderwebs

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A cross section of an intricate spiderweb shows in various colors
Isabelle Su and Markus Buehler

If you don’t like spiders and spiderwebs, maybe don’t read this article. But if arachnids fascinate you, then you may be interested to know researchers have turned spiderwebs into music. It’s a virtual look into the world of spiders and the vibrations they sense.

Most spiders that rely on webs to catch their prey don’t have great vision. Instead, the vibrations generated by the web almost act as the spider’s “vision.” Some spiders even use those vibrations to communicate with each other.

Researchers wanted to “see” what the spider’s world is like, and went about it in novel ways. “The spider lives in an environment of vibrating strings,” says Markus Buehler, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator, who is presenting the work. “They don’t see very well, so they sense their world through vibrations, which have different frequencies.” Buehler wondered if he could create extract melodies from spider web vibrations.

First, the researchers used laser imaging to do 3D scans of webs created by tropical tent-web spiders (Cyrtophora citricola). From that 3D model, researchers calculated each web strand’s frequency by looking at properties like length and elasticity. From there, the scientists assigned “notes” to each frequency in the human hearing range to create melodies.

Of course, simply hearing that melody could have been an easy stopping point. But the researchers developed a VR program to interact with the web and create new melodies. The sounds (heard in the above video) may not follow the structure of a song, but they’re somewhat haunting. In the VR demo, you can move through the web, strum strands, and try to create your own music. Unfortunately, you can’t download the VR app currently, but you can listen to the demonstrations in the video.

via New Scientist



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