Itsy-Bitsy Spiders Follow Laser Pointers Like Cats Do
Humans of Earth, we have feared our spider neighbors long enough. It’s time we appreciated them for the helpful, adorable little critters they are. You need proof? We’ve just learned that the presence of a laser pointer turns jumping spiders into teeny, eight-legged kittens. For this information, we can thank Twitter and scientists—although the heroes of this story are not arachnologists but astronomers. Jamie Lomax spends most of her time studying objects in space at the University of Washington. But one afternoon, she found her work interrupted by a very small object much closer by:
And then another spider fell. And then another. “It was a little unnerving,” Lomax told The Atlantic. “I’m not scared of spiders but if someone else wants to take care of the spider in a room, I’ll gladly let them do it over me. And I don’t really want them raining down on my head.” Suggestions on how to deal with the spiders came pouring in. They were pretty much what you’d expect—“nukes and fire” was a popular option—with one exception:
Lomax had not tried lasers. But her colleague at the University of Washington, Emily Levesque, was reading the tweets, too, and she couldn’t wait. “She has a laser pointer and she happens to be the only other person with spiders in her office,” Lomax said. “She ran down to me and said: You have to see this.” Consummate scientists, the two astronomers tested the spiders on different-colored lasers to see which they’d prefer. For whatever reason, the green light was like spider catnip.
The scientists’ progressively sillier and more fascinating spider/laser updates drew a large following of astronomers, laypeople, and spider experts, including Nate Morehouse of the University of Cincinnati. Jumping spiders don’t spin webs, Morehouse explained. They rely on their keen eyesight to stalk their prey the same way cats do. The spiders’ enormous, sophisticated eyes “are built like … wait for it … Galilean telescopes”—that is, tubes with a convex lens at one end and a concave lens near the other.
“They can definitely resolve the moon in the night sky,” Morehouse tweeted. This image, of wee spiders gazing up at the moon, has already inspired at least one artist. Lomax is also into it.
If all this doesn’t just melt your heart, there’s probably no hope for you.
[h/t The Atlantic]