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MIT scientists have turned cobwebs into music. It can help us talk to them

The MIT team is working with Berlin-based artist Thomas Saraseno to make two-dimensional laser scans of a cobweb that are connected and turned into a mathematical model that can recreate the web in 3D into virtual reality. They also worked with MIT’s music department to create a virtual instrument similar to a harp.

Listening to music as you move through the VR web allows you to see and hear these structural changes and gives you a better idea of ​​how spiders see the world, he told CNN.

“Spiders have a lot of ignited vibration 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 that will experience the world was something that was very obvious to us as spider scientists. “Buhler said.

Spiders are able to build their webs without scaffolding or supports, so a better idea of ​​how they work could lead to the development of sophisticated new 3D printing techniques, he said.

They scanned the web as the spider built it, and Buhler compared it to a stringed instrument that changes as the structure becomes more complex.

“As you play the guitar, you will suddenly have new strings that will appear and grow,”

; he said.

Buhler said they recorded the vibrations that spiders create during various activities, such as networking, courtship signals and communication with other spiders, and used artificial intelligence to create synthetic versions.

“We’re starting to maybe be able to speak the language of a spider,” he said. “The hope is that we can then reproduce them in the web structure to improve the ability to communicate with the spider and maybe make the spider act in a certain way, respond to signals in a certain way.”

He said work was still ongoing and that they needed to close their lab because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Buhler has been interested in the relationship between music and materials at the molecular level for years and uses similar techniques to show the subtle differences between Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines and between two different variants of the Covid-19 virus (you will hear one through your left speaker, and the other through the right).
Listen to the sound of an 18,000-year-old musical instrument

In addition to the scientific value, Buhler said that the webs are musically interesting and that you can hear the melodies that the spider creates during construction.

“It’s unusual and eerie and scary, but ultimately beautiful,” he said.

The team members performed live music by playing and manipulating the VR network while the musicians jammed on human instruments.

“The reason I did this was because I wanted to be able to really transfer information from the spider’s point of view, which is very atonal and strange and ghostly, if you will, to something more human,” Buhler said.

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