Aerodynamics and Spiders

Aerodynamics are all around us. Eveytime something moves through the air, aerodynamics play a part.

(If you are interested in the aerodynamics of planes, take a look at our great tips for your science projects)

But aerodynamics are not just for machines. Spiders create webs that have some pretty crazy aerodynamic properties.

Have you ever walked through a spider web? If you have, it´s not the greatest feeling, but it doesn´t hurt. You just bust straight through it. A flying insect doesn´t though – even though it should!

Catching a flying insect with a net whould be like trying to catch a brick with a Kleenex. But the clever spider has a few tricks up it´s er, sleeve. You can recreate some of the aerodynamics involved in your science projects.

An orb web is made up of a few parts that do different things. The strands that radiate out from the center are pretty brittle and rigid. They´re like the posts that hold up your house and only stretch about a fifth of their length before they snap.

But the SPIRAL threads (the ones that make that pretty round-ish shape) are a different story. They´re like sticky elastic and can stretch up to THREE TIMES its original length. They also hold a trapped insect like glue. But the strands are so thin, and the insects are so big (kinda!), so no-one could understand why the web wasn´t getting damaged.

Using the same cameras that record simulated car crashes at high speeds, scientists have solved the mystery. When an insect hits an orb web, the impact is limited by the stiff threads to only three spokes on either side.

This clever design means that only PART of the web takes the impact, leaving the rest of the web undamaged. Clever spiders!

Take a closer look at aerodynamics with our Fun Airplanes ideas for your science projects.

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