Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Golden cloth from the silk of a million spiders

Photo: AMNH

It sounds like something from a fairy tale: a golden cloth, woven from the silk threads of more than a million spiders. But it's real. In Madagascar, a team of over 70 people spent more than 4 years collecting spider silk, which a dozen weavers spun and wove into an 11-foot tapestry that is now on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. 

Photo: AMNH

It's the largest cloth in existence made from spider silk, which is stronger than steel by some measures. Scientists have been trying for years to synthetically produce the silk in usable quantities. 

The project, led by textile experts Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, relied on the silk of golden orb spiders, which were caught, milked for silk, and released. My apologies to the arachnophobes in the audience for this photo:

Photo: Peers and Godley

The New York Times and Wired both have interesting articles on the cloth, which will move to London after six months in New York. See it while you can. 

Those of you who haven't been scared away by this post may also be interested in reading this interview I did last year with UC Riverside spider silk researcher Cheryl Hayashi. 

5 comments:

  1. its beautiful but it doesn't say how big it is..

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  2. It's 11 feet long, but I don't know if that's including the long tassels or not.

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  3. Silk is most definitely stronger than steel by any measure!

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