Zehui of fields. When diving into the topic

Zehui
Wu

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As
one of the essential theorems in theory of evolution, natural selection is the
highly sophisticated progress of improving the ability of organisms to better
adapt to the environment, therefore increasing the chance of survival.
Undoubtfully, the effectiveness of any necessary skills like hunting and
self-protection remains the impulse that lies behind any natural selection.
When spider moved from water to the land million years ago, they began using
spider web for hunting prey instead of running them down for the practical
purpose. Hardly anyone can believe, the spider web is such a surprisingly
intricate system that nowadays humans are still unable to comprehend fully. As an
indispensable tool of all kinds of spiders, spiderweb plays an essential role
in spider’s survival for its undeniable capability to catch prey due to a
combination of properties of the spider silk, its intelligent way of
transporting signal using centrosymmetric network, and its unique patterns of
web dedicated to an incredible variety of functions. And not just for spiders, Spiderweb
has also contributed to human technology in a diversity of fields.

When
diving into the topic about the function of the spider web, the scene of an
insect trapping on the net automatically pop up in everyone’s mind.
Unsurprisingly, the capability of catching prey is the most critical function
of a spider web. The texture of spider silk maintains a significant
distribution of this ability. Regarding tensile strength and elasticity, spider
silk is a better material even when compared to the same weight of steel. As it is the firmest
material humans have known, scientists have conducted lots of researches on its
potentially significant role in a diversity of industry, such as bullet-proof
vests
and artificial tendons. The electrically conductive property of the silk also
helps to improve the efficiency of trapping the preys, which tends to gain
static charges that can be attracted by the silk, hence making the web
springing out to wrap the victim. Moreover, spiders are also capable of
producing glue-like fluid on the silks that stick to the flying insects. These
silks with high viscosity help are trapping the prey in two ways: when the
insect tries to break free with high velocity, it acts as an elastic solid, and
when the victims give up the struggle, it serves merely as a sticky glue. The
web is like a swamp – the harder you fight, the more you sink. All these
adhesive properties of the spider web, including strength, flexibility, and
stickiness add up ingeniously, forming an excellent hunting tool. In the long
history of evolution, humans have invented plenty of creative hunting tools.
Unsurprisingly, spiderweb has given inspiration to lots of them, such as the
fishing nets and the hunting webs. By mimicking the composition, texture, and
stickiness of the spider silk, humans fabricated these tools using the
reticular structure and decorated them with barbs and glue.

The
most obvious function of a spider web is to catch and hold prey. However,
having evolved for millions of years, the impressively complex structure of the
web suggests it can do more than that. It turns out spiderweb is perfectly
designed to be a network system of transmitting signal using vibration. Using
itself as measurement, the spider constructs intricate webs which can transfer
vibration from anywhere on the web to the center with its superb netting skill.
After finishing the construction, it either waits in the middle of the network
or hides aside and connects its leg with the center using a signal wire.
Besides, Spider has sensing organs on all of its eight legs, building a highly
sensitive system that aids it to detect different kinds of vibration generated
by prey, predator or mate. Inspired by spiderweb, there are lots of experiments
and researches on improving sensors. Recently, Stanford scientists are working
on building a micron-thin mesh of strain and temperature sensors that were
inspired by the complicated network of spider webs constructed with gossamer
strands. By wrapping around the aircraft, the system enables the craft to sense
and monitor the interior well-being efficiently. From a different angle, we can
also treat spiderweb as a sign-processing computer for it is not just a passive
receiver. The spider can produce vibrations of its own in order to probe for
the status of the network, including locating and categorizing the prey and
even situations like broken threads; the complex nonlinear structure of the web
then acts as a dynamic filter for a mixture of vibration signals and transmits
signals back to the spider, helping the spider to interpret signs. It performs
just like a regular computer – receiving input and producing output. This
amazing process of outsourcing computation of the brain to a physical body is
astonishing, exceeding human technology for countless centuries. Just for
reference, humans had the first automatic computing engine only in 1822.

The
patterns of spider webs are varied; it can be a spiral whorl, a simple
combination of zigzag lines or in shape of a tent, funnel or wheel. At first
glance, they may seem disordered, but if you explore in depth, you will find
specific laws that link closely to the predatory behavior of spiders. Web
construction for a spider is not only time-consuming but also costs plenty of
metabolic energy to synthesize amino acid for silk production, so it seems
unlikely that spider would waste so much energy to decorate its web merely. It
must serve numerous vital functions. As expected, these delicate patterns make
spiderweb a multi-purpose structure according to long-lasting scientific
research. Basing on the property of the silk as the excellent reflector of
ultraviolet light, some spiders use patterns to attract prey by constructing
and decorating the network in a way that makes the web very similar to an
illuminant. Phototactic insects will then fly toward the web and meet the
hungry spider that is waiting for a gorgeous meal. Moreover, as lots of spiders
wait for their prey just on the center, patterns that highlighting the
surrounding area can be useful, for they can quickly draw the predator eyes
away from the center, thus serving as perfect camouflage. As mentioned before,
constructing the web is a costly endeavor, so it is without a doubt that spider
would like to protect it from damage. To achieve this purpose, spiders use
patterns as a visual warning that alarm animals like birds to be away from it,
the same way as humans do to protect crops from birds using a scarecrow. The
most ingenious part of the pattern would be its complicated way of localizing
damage to avoid the breaking of the web in its entirety. With sophisticated netting
skills, the spiders design the network to be an overall robust structure that
helps it resist damage, so that when you pull the web, the damage was limited
to the immediate area without spreading out and disturbing the normal
functioning of the network. Using this principle of allowing the localizing
loss to avoid the overall destruction, humans can improve the constructions
like earthquake-resistant building by letting the whole entity to flex up to a
point, so even if a single structure break, the rest of the building can
survive. In my belief, this spiderweb-inspired principle can be used not only
in physical structure but also in the virtual internet. Applying this law, we
can shut down computers that experience virus attack immediately to avoid
further propagating, therefore ensuring the safety of the entire internet.

Beyond all expectation, the spider web is such a
complicated and intelligent network system that serves an unbelievable variety
of function. Its design has not only inspire us through the long history from
the hunting tool of old time to the highly efficient sensor of modern time but
also teach us principles that are vital for technological progress. Inventions
from animals yield insight on the way we think about technology, opening new
pathways that lead humankind to a new world of wonder. Countless innovations
that have not been revealed to human are lying in nature, waiting for us to
discover. Instead of staying being proud of our “new” inventions, we
should take a good look at the world surrounding us with curiosity and
patience.

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