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"Ballooning" Spiders Use Electrostatic Forces To Generate Lift 213

Posted by samzenpus
from the when-spiders-learn-to-fly dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Many types of small spider release threads into the air which then lift and carry them significant distances. Biologists have found them at altitudes of up to 4 km. The conventional thinking is that the threads catch thermal air currents which then carry them away but this does not explain how spiders perform their trick even when there is little or no wind. Now one physicist says the explanation is the atmosphere's natural electric field which has an average downward-pointing magnitude of 120 Volts per metre. He calculates that a strand of silk need only gain a negative charge of around 30 nanoCoulombs to lift a spider. That explains how the spiders take off on windless days, how they reach such great heights and how several strands can lift heavier spiders of up to 100 milligrams."
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"Ballooning" Spiders Use Electrostatic Forces To Generate Lift

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  • Re:Yes, But... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Monday September 23, 2013 @10:54AM (#44923963)

    He lives in New York, he's always swung from the multitude of high rises.

    I'm guessing you're a little younger than I am, because I still remember the original 1960's Spider-man cartoon. He managed to swing across the Hudson River frequently. I recall one episode where he managed to "swing" to Mexico, or Central America even. Even so, not every area in all five boroughs of NY are covered in skyscrapers you know. He lived in a single family house with his aunt.

  • Re:Nature is amazing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@nOsPAm.keirstead.org> on Monday September 23, 2013 @11:49AM (#44924493) Homepage

    You are missing the point and arguing my own point.

    IE if Intelligent Design was real, then this "designer" would have given arachnids that had to fly wings, and what you think of as an arachnid would be different.

    He wouldn't have made them make these strange parachutes because it is not as efficient. This is something evolution did to solve the problem of "I don't have wings how do I move around". If the designer was intelligent it wouldn't be a problem in the first place.

  • by goombah99 (560566) on Monday September 23, 2013 @01:06PM (#44925473)

    I will have to read the research article because the press article doesn't explain it. a dipole charge would not move in a linear gradient field. it would require a second order curvature to the gradient to make it move. thus it's irrelevant that the linear field is 120 v /meter. what would matter is the derivative on that.

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