Thu. Nov 30th, 2023
    Exploring the Symphony of Spiderwebs: The SpiderHarp as an Intersection of Science and Art

    Ross Hatton, a robotics and mechanical engineering professor at Oregon State University, has always been captivated by nature’s creatures that elicit fear in many of us: spiders and snakes. With his background in snake robots, Hatton sought to understand how spiders interpret their world through the vibrations in their webs. After years of research and collaboration, Hatton developed an innovative device called the SpiderHarp, which translates spider web vibrations into musical notes.

    Spider webs, particularly those of orb-weaving spiders, consist of stiff radial lines and springy spiral lines. Hatton and his team replicated these attributes and built a device that recreated the vibrations spiders would feel in their webs. The device then converted these vibrations into musical notes, resulting in an instrument that resembles a spider web but sounds like a harp.

    By analyzing the signals of vibrations and their frequency, spiders gather information about the source of the vibrations in their web. Hatton’s computer models demonstrated the effectiveness of this process, but he wanted to create something tangible to communicate these ideas to a wider audience. This led to the construction of an actual spider web, albeit on a smaller scale.

    To replicate the silk stiffness ratio found in real spider webs, Hatton used parachute cord and stretchy shock cord. The web was built in a cone shape to maintain the proportional relationships between the radial cords. Additionally, Hatton designed a mechanical “spider” with eight legs equipped with alligator clips and accelerometers to detect vibrations.

    The SpiderHarp not only enables researchers to study how spiders interpret vibrations but also serves as a musical instrument. Hatton enlisted the help of musician Chet Udell, a professor of biological and ecological engineering at OSU, who recognized the potential for the SpiderHarp as a musical innovation. With Udell’s expertise, the SpiderHarp became a unique intersection of science and art.

    The SpiderHarp provides a fresh perspective on how spiders understand their environment and illustrates the fascinating convergence between scientific research and artistic expression. By translating the abstract language of engineering into music, Hatton and Udell have created a groundbreaking tool that captivates both scientists and musicians alike.


    Q: What is the SpiderHarp?
    A: The SpiderHarp is a device that translates spider web vibrations into musical notes.

    Q: How does the SpiderHarp work?
    A: The SpiderHarp replicates the vibrations that spiders would feel in their webs and converts them into audible pitches.

    Q: Why did Ross Hatton create the SpiderHarp?
    A: Hatton wanted to study how spiders interpret web vibrations and communicate these ideas to a wider audience.

    Q: What is the significance of the SpiderHarp?
    A: The SpiderHarp not only advances scientific research but also serves as a unique musical instrument.

    Q: Who collaborated with Hatton on the SpiderHarp?
    A: Hatton collaborated with spider biologist Damian Elias from the University of California, Berkeley, and musician Chet Udell from Oregon State University.