LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Scientists have translated spider webs into music, creating an eerie harp-like soundtrack that could help them better understand how the arachnids communicate as they spin their complex creations and may lead to advanced 3D printing techniques.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology presented their findings April 12 at a meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

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“The spider lives in an environment of vibrating strings,” said Markus Buehler, the project’s principal investigator, in a brief published by the American Chemical Society. “They don’t see very well, so they sense their world through vibrations, which have different frequencies.”

The MIT team worked with Berlin-based artist Tomás Saraceno to take two-dimensional laser scans of spider webs, stitch them together and convert the sounds into mathematical models that could be recreated in 3D virtual reality.

They also worked with MIT’s music department to create the harp-like virtual instrument.

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Buehler says this step-by-step knowledge of how a spider builds a web could help in devising “spider-mimicking” 3D printers that build complex microelectronics.

“The spider’s way of ‘printing’ the web is remarkable because no support material is used, as is often needed in current 3D printing methods,” he explained.

Buehler said the next step is to try to talk to spiders using their language of web vibrations.

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