Spiders are giving scientists new inspiration on how to detect sounds.
Most arachnids ‘hear’ by feeling different vibrations on body hairs, as well as using crack-shaped slits on their legs. The sounds they pick up can be used to find a meal, or a mate. These small slits are called “lyriform organs” because they closely resemble the strings on a lyre. Seoul National University has taken these organs as a basis to make a new sound detector, by making a thin platinum film with cracks, which is then placed on top of a soft polymer substrate. This closely mirrors the slits on a spider’s legs, and can be used to distinguish any nearby sounds. In order to test this, the researchers put the sensor above the f-hole of a violin, so any sound played would make the sensor vibrate. The scientists made a video which coordinates the movement and vibration of the sensor with the music being played.
Next up, the researchers attempted to see if human speech was compatible with the detector, and found success. They then tried seeing what would happen if background noise was played behind the human speech, and received surprising results. The sensor was able to still able to notice the human speech sounds even though normally it’d be a mixture of the different noises. This is called the “cocktail party effect”, where our brains filter out any unnecessary noise and are able to focus on a single source. Spiders can use this to focus on a single sound. It would be quite hard trying to find a quiet mate when a spider is in a noisy forest, so being able to focus on one sound is more beneficial.
You have to admit that although spiders can be a bit scary, the way that they work is pretty cool.