Why study spider silk? The American Museum of Natural History sums it up nicely (and a lot like Dad would):
For its weight, spider silk is stronger than steel, but—unlike steel—it can stretch up to 40% of its normal length. Scientists are trying to produce this intriguing material artificially on a large scale for possible uses on the battlefield, in surgery, for space exploration, and elsewhere. Since raising spiders has proven difficult, researchers are investigating ways to replicate spider silk to avoid harvesting. However, spider silk is difficult to mimic in a lab because the silk begins as a liquid in the spider's gland, becoming a remarkably strong, water-resistant solid after following a complicated course through the spider's interior.Why bring it up in a design blog? Today I saw THIS. Some eccentric genius has created a fantastic modern silk weaving made completely of spider silk.
That golden color is undyed--the natural color of the silk. The process of harvesting, spinning, and crafting this piece of textile art is fascinating. Here are some vital stats:
- total # of people involved: ~80
- total # of spiders involved: 1 million
- # of wild spiders captured per day: ~3000
- length of a single spider's silk: up to 400 yards
- # of silk threads that broke on the loom during weaving: zero
- length of project: 4 years
- total cost of the project: over $500,000
- size of finished textile: 4 ft x 11 ft
Images from The American Museum of Natural History, courtesy of Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley. Thanks to Ecouterre for the tip.