Scientists have translated the structure of a web into music

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The project is based on a spider web that was spun by a tent web spider (Cyrtophora citricola, pictured)



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American scientists have brought the structure of a spider’s web to life by translating it into music – a technique that could help us communicate with spiders, they say.

They assigned different frequencies of sound to strands of the web, creating “notes” that they combined into patterns, based on the 3D structure of the web, to generate melodies.

The odd piece of music, which lasts just over a minute, sounds like the soundtrack to a weird dystopian sci-fi horror movie.

It was created by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with laser scanning technology and image processing tools.

Experts say cobwebs could provide a new source of musical inspiration and provide a form of interspecies communication.

MUSICAL SPIDER SITES

Spiders are master builders, expertly weaving strands of silk into intricate 3D webs that serve as the spider’s home and hunting ground.

Spider silk transmits vibrations over a wide range of frequencies so that when plucked, the sound produced contains information about the prey or structural integrity of a web.

Spiders have poor eyesight, so they rely on the vibration of the silk of their web for information, such as what their next meal will be.

They receive the information by using organs on each of their legs called split sensilla.

Spiders can “tune” the silk by adjusting the tension and connections to create a better web.

The project was led by Professor Markus Buehler, materials scientist and engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Professor Buehler made headlines this time last year after translating the basic protein structure of the coronavirus into a calming musical arrangement.

“Websites could be a new source of musical inspiration that is very different from the usual human experience,” he said.

Professor Buehler’s team wants to learn how to communicate with spiders in their own language.

They recorded the web vibrations produced when spiders performed different activities, such as building a web, communicating with other spiders, or sending courtship signals.

Although the frequencies sound like those of the human ear, a machine learning algorithm correctly classified the sounds into the different activities.

“Now we’re trying to generate synthetic signals to basically speak the spider’s tongue,” Professor Buehler said.

“If we expose them to certain patterns of rhythms or vibrations, can we affect what they are doing and can we begin to communicate with them?” These are really exciting ideas.

Spiders are abundant in nature and represent over 47,000 species.

But they have poor eyesight, so they rely on the vibration of the silk of their web for information, like the place where the next meal landed.

They receive the information by using organs on each of their legs called split sensilla.

Cutaway images (shown in different colors) of a spider web have been combined into this 3D image and translated into music

Spiders can “tune” the silk by adjusting the tension and connections to create a better web – almost making their web a musical instrument itself.

“The spider lives in an environment of vibrating ropes,” said Professor Buehler. “They can’t see very well, so they feel their world through vibrations, which have different frequencies.

Professor Buehler, a cobweb expert with an interest in music, wondered if he could extract rhythms and melodies of non-human origin from natural materials, such as webs. spiders.

He worked with his collaborator Tomás Saraceno, a contemporary Argentinian artist, on the project, based on a spider web spun by a tent-web spider (Cyrtophora citricola).

This species is widespread in the subtropics and tropics of Asia, Africa and Australia and tends to make its webs on the guardrails of canal bridges.

The project is based on a spider web that was spun by a tent web spider (Cyrtophora citricola, pictured)

The project is based on a spider web that was spun by a tent web spider (Cyrtophora citricola, pictured)

The team scanned a C. citricola cobweb with a laser to capture 2D sections, then used computer algorithms to reconstruct the web’s 3D network.

They assigned different frequencies of sound to strands of the web, creating “notes” that they combined into patterns, based on the 3D structure of the web, to generate melodies.

Researchers then created a harp-like instrument and played spider web music in several live performances around the world before the coronavirus pandemic.

To complement this experience, the team also developed a virtual reality (VR) setup that allowed people to visually and audibly “walk” into the web.

“The virtual reality environment is really intriguing because your ears are going to pick up structural features that you might see but won’t immediately recognize,” said Professor Buehler.

“By hearing it and seeing it at the same time, you can really begin to understand the environment the spider lives in.

Headset and VR controllers allow a user to interact with the spider web

To better understand how spiders build webs, researchers scanned a web during the building process, turning each step into music with different sounds.

“The sounds of our harp-like instrument change in the process, mirroring the way the spider builds the web,” Professor Buehler said.

“Thus, we can explore the temporal sequence of the construction of the Web in an audible form.

This step-by-step knowledge of how a spider builds a web could help design “spider-mimicking” 3D printers that build complex microelectronics.

“The way the spider prints the web is remarkable because no support material is used, as is often required in current 3D printing methods,” said Professor Buehler.

In other experiments, researchers explored how the sound of a canvas changes when exposed to different mechanical forces, such as stretching.

Stretching and breaking the spider web

Their video, posted on YouTube, shows the sonification of a spider web when it is stretched and broken.

“In the virtual reality environment, we can start pulling the web apart, and when we do that the tension of the strings and the sound they make changes,” Prof Buehler added.

“At one point the strands snap and they snap. ”

The researchers will present their results on Monday at the American Chemical Society (ACS) spring meeting.

MIT uses AI to translate the basic protein structure of SARS-CoV-2 into a calming musical arrangement

In 2020, MIT researchers transformed SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19, into a musical composition.

The project was initiated by Professor Markus Buehler, who worked with a team at MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab to create a machine learning tool that would translate the virus’s amino acids into musical notation.

The team focused on the virus’s famous viral spike on its outer surface, which contains a braid of three different protein chains.

Each protein chain is made up of specific amino acid sequences, all of which wrap around each other in a complex structure that the machine learning tool has transposed into notes for several different instruments that play for an hour and a half. 49 minutes.

Buehler initially came up with the idea, while considering ways to help the public conceptualize the virus without complex chemistry.

“These structures are too small for the eye to see, but they can be heard,” he told MIT News.

“In a single pass, our ears capture all of its hierarchical characteristics: pitch, timbre, volume, melody, rhythm and chords.

“We would need a high powered microscope to see the equivalent detail in an image, and we would never be able to see everything at once.

Professor Buehler made headlines this time last year after translating the basic protein structure of the coronavirus into a calming musical arrangement

Professor Buehler made headlines this time last year after translating the basic protein structure of the coronavirus into a calming musical arrangement

Professor Buehler made headlines this time last year after translating the basic protein structure of the coronavirus into a calming musical arrangement

The resulting score is eerily serene and quite at odds with the public health crisis the virus has caused around the world.

For Buehler, this paradox conveys an underlying truth about the deceptive nature of the virus, which he describes as “an invader disguised as a friendly visitor.”

“The virus has a strange ability to deceive and exploit the host for its own multiplication,” Buehler said.

“Its genome hijacks the host cell’s protein-making machinery and forces it to replicate the viral genome and produce viral proteins to make new viruses.

For Buehler, being able to hear this dynamic as a set of sounds rather than a list of abstract words and numbers on the printed page could help give people a new idea of ​​what the virus is and how it works. .

“Through music, we can see the SARS-CoV-2 peak from a new perspective and appreciate the urgent need to learn the language of proteins,” he said.

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