Eureka! Scientists could soon talk to spiders

Incy wincy: The thread in an average spider web is 0.003mm across – 20 times thinner than hair.

If animals could speak, would they say anything interesting? Researchers have translated the shape of a spider web into music. It could be the first step in talking to other species.

What’s happening

The music finishes. There is a moment of silence, then applause breaks out. People stand up to clap. The concert has been fabulous.

Then, some scientists come on to stage to bow. They are holding a small see-through case. Inside is the composer: a normal garden spider.

Find out more

This has not happened, yet. But it might soon.

Scientists at an American university have made music based on spider webs.

They scanned a spider web with a laser. Then, they used computers to create an electronic 3D model.

Each strand of the web was given a note. All of them were then played as a song on a new musical instrument.

Dr Markus Buehler, who led the project, hopes it will improve our knowledge of how spiders live in webs.

“They don’t see very well, so they sense their world through vibrations,” he explains. “You can really start to understand the world they live in.”

By bringing us closer to the arachnids, the project could be the first step in talking to other species.

Would animals say anything interesting?

Some say…

Yes! Animals experience life in different ways. They would be able to tell us about it. Dogs could tell us what it is like to have a good sense of smell. Bats could explain how they use sound to see. Whales could tell stories about travelling across oceans. It would be amazing to talk to animals!

Others think…

It might not be so positive. Pets might tell their owners that they would prefer to live somewhere else. Dogs might tell us they think playing fetch is boring. Cats might start asking for more expensive cat food. It might be very sad to talk to animals and find out that they don’t really like humans at all!

You Decide

  1. If you could speak to one kind of animal, what would it be?

Activities

  1. You have just met a panda that can talk. It wants to know all about you. Write an introduction about yourself. Add three facts you would like the panda to know about life as a human.

Some People Say...

“These fish languages, they really only work underwater… At the moment, I can only make big bubbles and they keep on telling me I’m shouting.”

Rex Harrison, (1908 – 1990), English actor in Dr Dolittle

What do you think?

Word Watch

Applause
Approval shown especially by clapping the hands.
Fabulous
Extremely good or excellent.
Composer
Someone who writes music.
University
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a leading science college in the US. Researchers there focus on interesting projects about the natural world. In January, they taught spinach to send emails.
3D
Short for 3-dimensional. It means a shape that pops out at you – or is not flat. It is different from a 2D shape, which appears flat on a piece of paper.
Strand
A thin thread or string. One strand of spiders web is 0.003mm thick – but stronger than steel.
Musical instrument
The scientists created an electronic harp with lots of strings to play the unusual song.
Vibrations
Vibration means moving quickly back and forth, or shaking. Spiders sense when prey has landed on their web by feeling the movement on the strands of their web.
Arachnids
Small creatures with eight legs. Their bodies are divided into two sections. All spiders are arachnids. So are harvestmen, mites and ticks.
Species
A group of similar organisms that can reproduce. Humans and dogs are different species.
Expensive
Costing a lot of money, having a high price.

Subjects

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