Through a technique called ballooning, a spider can travel hundreds of feet into the air and hundreds of miles over land and water. That’s right, your everyday spider can fly.
Charles Darwin first noticed this in 1832 when the HMS Beagle was 60 miles off the coast of Argentina and was suddenly boarded by hundreds of spiders. He wrote
“All the ropes were coated and fringed with gossamer web.” (1)
According to new research from the University of Bristol, spiders can sense the earth’s magnetic field. The air carries about 100 volts for every meter above the ground. The ground itself is negatively charged, as is anything firmly attached to it (e.g., plants), while the air is positively charged. Spiders can leverage the difference to float in the air.
Now, if you have arachnophobia, that might sound like a very unappealing prospect. Just thing, you’re biking along and suddenly your hit in the face by a flying spider.
That could happen, but it’s not the point of why this is important. Electrostatic repulsion was first proposed by scientists in the early 1800s. It was revived by a mathematician in 2013, Peter Gorham, who offered a mathematical proof that it could be done. Now the Bristol researchers have established that electrostatic repulsion is actually being used to fly. By spiders. Who says animals aren’t intelligent?
How long before this becomes a means of moving people at much less cost than either traditional engines or even electric cars?