07 May 2006

What's the web good for?

Stumbling around more or less at random, I discoverd this little gem within what appears to be a tract on Surah 29 of The Q’ran [if that attribution is wrong, please post a comment here telling me how to correct it]:

Spiders uses the silk for trap lines, draglines, ballooning lines, for trap-door covers to underground retreats, for egg sacs and nursery webs, for chambers in which to hibernate or to mate, for the many types of webs in which food is ensnared, and for entangling and swathing their prey. Silk for all these purposes is not achieved with one type of gland; there are at least seven different types that equip the whole spider group. Some individual spiders have as many as six kinds and possibly have more than six hundred separate glands; others have less than this.

Can you imagine the consequences of this one simple question — “are your glands out?” — carelessly put?

The tract also makes the general claim that spider silk “has a tensile strength surpassed only by fused quartz fibers”; this during the process of explaining that various spiders’ web strengths vary enormously — some of the strongly-emitting and agile “little” flytrappers building about the place must often be laying down gem-quality parachute-strength string! — and it also gets used for sleeping-bags, nurseries, balloons, safe-houses, egg-holders, and probably much else not overburdened in detail here by Kentucky’s explainer, Ibrahim Syed.

For all of the organic context so clearly involved, this story still sounds uncannily like the qualities of the electronic medium this weblog is being posted to: often harmless-looking, but... in places, lethally strong.

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