Friday Sprog Blogging: spider silk.

Last night as we sat down to eat, a spider scuttled out from under Dr. Free-Ride's better half's napkin.

Younger offspring: Spider! Where'd it go? Where'd it go?

Dr. Free-Ride: I think it's hiding under that serving plate.

Younger offspring: I don't want a spider in our food!

Elder offspring: The food's on top on the plate. The spider's underneath.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: (moving the plate to expose the spider again) Let's just help the spider off the table.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half gently sweeps the spider off the edge of the table.

Younger offspring: Ahh, where is it?

Dr. Free-Ride: Probably on the kitchen floor, patrolling for tasty insects.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: Or tasty toes.

Younger offspring: Eeee!!

Dr. Free-Ride: Kiddo, your toes aren't even touching the floor, so you're safe. If any tasty toes are to be spider food, I think mine will be the first to go.

Elder offspring: Hey, the spider is climbing up the table.

Younger offspring: It's using its web!

Dr. Free-Ride: Isn't that just like a spider to use its spider powers?

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: I guess I got it off the table top but not all the way to the floor. Let's try again.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half scoops up the spider and gently deposits it near the edge of the wheeled kitchen island.

Elder offspring: I'll bet there are yummy insects to catch under there.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: I wonder if part of why a spider has eight eyes is that you need really accurate spatial information to wrap up your prey in the web.

Dr. Free-Ride: Even making a good web probably requires really good spatial perception.

Younger offspring: Why don't spider webs feel like silk?

Dr. Free-Ride: What do you mean?

Younger offspring: They call it spider silk, but it doesn't feel like silk to me. It feels sticky.

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: You're thinking of how silk fabric feels -- soft and slippery -- right? You know, that fabric is woven from silk fibers.

Elder offspring: The fibers from silkworm cocoons.

Younger offspring: Yeah. Spider silk doesn't feel like silk. Silk feels nice.

Dr. Free-Ride: But the fibers used to make silk fabric are washed and treated, I bet, so they'd feel different from a silkworm cocoon. Possibly the silk is sticky when it comes out of the silkworm's butt.

Younger offspring: Eeew!!

Dr. Free-Ride: I don't know why you're so squeamish all of a sudden. The other day you really enjoyed your peanut butter and bee vomit sandwich.

Younger offspring: Bee vomit?!

Elder offspring: Honey is bee vomit. Tasty, tasty bee vomit.

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YTD has learned about yuck. Your daughter is growing. :)

Seriously, she's about the right age for her brain to have grown large enough and organized enough for her to understand things she never understood before, but not large enough and organized enough to get it right. Now tis her imagination that leads her astray.

Ah yes....... good old bee barf........

Or, as they said in The Bucket List:

Edward Cole: You're shitting me!

Carter Chambers: [laughing] Cats beat me to it!

By themadlolscien… (not verified) on 12 Sep 2008 #permalink

Ummm. Bee vomit. Yummm.

non nom nom

Dr. Free-Ride's better half: I wonder if part of why a spider has eight eyes is that you need really accurate spatial information to wrap up your prey in the web.

Most web-building spiders have extremely poor vision. Typically, 4 or 6 of the 8 'eyes' have a resolution equivalent to 4 pixels or less. (Take an image. Now divide it into four rectangles. Color the darker two rectangles black, and the lighter two white. That's how these secondary eyes 'see'. ) They are only useful for estimating the direction of the sun. The remaining eyes typically have a resolution equivalent to a few hundred pixels, or maybe a few thousand pixels. Compare this to an early (1985) macintosh, which had a resolution of 512x384, or 196,608 pixels. Compared to most insects, the typical web-building spider is nearly blind.
Instead of vision, web-building spiders rely heavily on an acute sense of vibration. That's why so many web-building spiders hang out near the center of the web. Spider webs are built with high-tension lines radiating out from the center, which efficiently transmit vibrations to the spider. Additionally - as anyone who has watched spiders extensively can tell you - they use their long legs as 'feelers', probing terrain and obstacles in all directions as they walk. When a spider is wrapping up prey, it's the long legs that give it the accurate spatial information it needs.