Spiderwebs are some of the most alluringly complex natural phenomena that you are likely to encounter on a morning walk. Spiders use the minute vibrations in their webs to perceive their environment, so what might it sound like if we could actually hear their mysterious music?
This was the goal of a data sonification project that puts humans in spiders’ shoes to experience spiderwebs. Researchers say the project could eventually be used to reverse engineer spiders’ reality and communicate with the arachnids.
“When you see the structure of a spiderweb, it reminds you somewhat of a harp or a stringed instrument. So the question came up, ‘What if you were to think about modeling these strings as vibrating objects?’” said Markus Buehler, an MIT engineering professor who leads the project. “What we’re trying to do is expand how we generate sound in music and how we compose music.” Buehler presented about his team’s data sonification research on Monday at a meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
The result is hauntingly beautiful, a soft and constant rustle of bells. My cat looked at me strangely when I played the spider music, as a video displaying a three-dimensional rendering of a web being stretched evoked the sound of an airplane taking off. Another video created by the team of researchers gave the perspective of a person navigating the spiderweb in virtual reality. It sounded like the score of a thriller movie, or the first bars of “Time” by Pink Floyd.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction