Welcome to the exciting new world of "necrobotics"
August 1, 2022 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Why do spiders curl up when they die? Apparently it's because of internal hydraulics. Graduate student Faye Yap and her colleagues "transformed a dead wolf spider into a gripping tool with just a single assembly step" and invented a new research field they are calling "necrobotics".

Daniel Preston's lab at Rice University specializes in soft robotic systems that often use nontraditional materials, as opposed to hard plastics, metals and electronics. Preston and his team hopes to eventually test this concept even smaller spiders, which can carry heavier loads relative to their weight.
posted by toastyk (55 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
"necrobotics"

Weak.
Now, if it was necroarachnobotics I'd be impressed.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:33 PM on August 1 [13 favorites]


First the necromancers came for the spiders and I said nothing because I was not a spider…
posted by aramaic at 10:04 PM on August 1 [45 favorites]


At least the spider bodies are fully biodegradable

Sure, there's that.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:04 PM on August 1 [10 favorites]


if it was necroarachnobotics I'd be impressed

They aren’t limiting themselves to arachnids. I’m impressed and slightly nervous.
posted by clew at 10:13 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]


I just learned about this from Randy Milholland. It didn't make me any happier than it made Davan.
posted by cgc373 at 10:16 PM on August 1 [5 favorites]


In the future, you'll swallow on average eight dead robotic spiders every year.
posted by AlSweigart at 11:36 PM on August 1 [16 favorites]


I recall a special forces guy telling me of using some tropical ant for field expedient wound sutures by holding them above the cut so they'd pull it together, and then killing them to lock in place.
posted by unearthed at 12:25 AM on August 2 [11 favorites]


This is one of the few times a research project has made me think why the fuck did you feel like you needed to do this.

Do we really have such a hard time building tiny grippy things that we had to turn to arthropod cadaver puppets?
posted by each day we work at 12:53 AM on August 2 [11 favorites]


I remember during fetal pig dissection in Biology 11, another student thought it was cute to ink stamp the pig's nose on their final report. The next class our teacher had a fit, scolding the entire class how doing something like that was completely disrespectful and inhumane, or something. Sorry Mr. Haji, but I for one can't help but think it was pretty funny.
posted by polymodus at 1:00 AM on August 2 [9 favorites]


"necrobotics"

That's pretty much what cstross' latest New Management book is about. Except in grocery stores. And with religion.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:57 AM on August 2 [4 favorites]


Tired: battlefield robots that use corpses as fuel

Wired: battlefield robots that use corpses as drones
posted by acb at 1:58 AM on August 2 [10 favorites]


Illegal in 47 states.
posted by etc passwd at 2:10 AM on August 2


So you can get a gun but you can't humanely terminate your workforce and robotocise them?
posted by biffa at 2:30 AM on August 2 [4 favorites]


From memory: This reminds me of the beginning of Greg Egan's _Distress_-- it's about squicky science.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 2:56 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


squicky science

This is how one milks a spider.
posted by dmh at 3:09 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


They aren’t limiting themselves to arachnids.

Well, Rice is in Houston, so the obvious candidate is cockroaches. Like in The Fifth Element.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:18 AM on August 2


I feel like we did zombie spiders in 2020... wait, are we still in 2020?
posted by adept256 at 3:36 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


Now do murder hornets

No wait.
posted by Mchelly at 4:02 AM on August 2 [7 favorites]


Welcome to the exciting new world of "necrobotics"

To quote Spike Milligan: You're welcome to it too, mate.
posted by Paul Slade at 5:20 AM on August 2


Tamsyn Muir's Locked Tomb series opens up on a planet that is a colossal mausoleum tended by necromantic nuns that uses skeletons the way we use kitchen appliances. It's trippy, hilarious and Goth As Fuck.
posted by bl1nk at 5:41 AM on August 2 [17 favorites]


Finally someone finds a use for that monkey's paw that was lying around.
posted by BungaDunga at 5:51 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


I went to Rice, and this makes me happy!
posted by Spike Glee at 6:18 AM on August 2


More on ant mandible sutures:
The use of ant mandibles as surgical clips was documented by the ancient Indian physicians Susruta and Charaka as early as 1000 BC and continued in some world areas into the early 1900s. According to the memoirs of the Greek revolutionary general Ioannis Makriyannis, this technique was also applied in the battlefields of the Greek Revolution for Independence between 1821 and 1832.
posted by heatherlogan at 6:32 AM on August 2 [8 favorites]


Now I'm trying to remember when this was used as a Spider-Man plot. I mean, you had these do-jobbies...
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:34 AM on August 2


From their press release: At long last we have created the field of necrobotics from the classic Sci-Fi novel, Don't Create the Field of Necrobiotics.
posted by Naberius at 6:37 AM on August 2 [19 favorites]


Years from now the remaining humans will look back on this and curse.
posted by tommasz at 6:49 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


a colossal mausoleum tended by necromantic nuns that uses skeletons the way we use kitchen appliances.

Eh, it's an undying.
posted by zamboni at 7:02 AM on August 2 [4 favorites]


I feel like we did zombie spiders in 2020... wait, are we still in 2020?

Today is March 885, 2020.
posted by fings at 7:28 AM on August 2 [11 favorites]




Do you want Gideon the Ninth? Because this is how you get Gideon the Ninth.
posted by cooker girl at 7:55 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


vaguely related, for your horrifying science fair experiment needs:
We are excited to announce the world's first commercially available cyborg! With our RoboRoach you can briefly wirelessly control the left/right movement of a cockroach by microstimulation of the antenna nerves.
(roach not included)
posted by BungaDunga at 8:00 AM on August 2


This so-called "new science" was invented in 1985. I mean, there's even a documentary.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:01 AM on August 2


This is how Yawgmoth got his start.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:09 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


"Frankenstein" is not the name of the monster. Then you realize, Frankenstein is the monster.
posted by SPrintF at 8:10 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Anyone remember that 1999 Jamie Lee Curtis horror called "Virus" where an alien intelligence turned a ship full of sailors into cyborg killing machines in a bid to eradicate humanity?

Good movie.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 8:27 AM on August 2


Does this make you more or less inclined to donate your body to science?
posted by Going To Maine at 8:36 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


What, so they can extract the spiders I've swallowed?
posted by Etrigan at 8:37 AM on August 2


What, so they can extract the spiders I've swallowed?

Necrobotics Georg was an outlier, and should have been killed with fire at the earliest opportunity.
posted by mhoye at 8:47 AM on August 2 [6 favorites]


Do we really have such a hard time building tiny grippy things that we had to turn to arthropod cadaver puppets?

Yes. That is, we can do it the "normal way" with mining and smelting and non-biodegradable trash at each step. But we don’t want that to be the only way.
posted by clew at 9:49 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


2022: hold my beer.
posted by ocschwar at 10:02 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


My question is how well the setae and exoskeleton hold up to this sort of thing over repeated use; seems like it would be hard to do without the spiderbody gradually sloughing bits off onto whatever you were trying to grip with it.
posted by Earthtopus at 10:31 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


Earthtopus, this is what Ars Technica (first link) said: The spider-gripper also proved to be surprisingly robust, completing 1,000 open/close cycles before the wear and tear on the joints caused the body to break down after a couple of days. Yap et al. believe this has something to do with dehydration in the joints over time. One possible way to extend the functionality of the gripper would be to apply a thin layer of vapor-impermeable coating. The team tested this by coating a spider-gripper with beeswax to mitigate water loss, resulting in significant improvement.
posted by toastyk at 10:48 AM on August 2 [7 favorites]


Now whenever I see a spider in the house, I'll be yelling, "Quick, put something under it!"
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:54 AM on August 2


If it manages to get the teddy bear to the chute, is it still a prize?
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:20 PM on August 2


I love to see my alma mater doing the good science stuff.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 1:53 PM on August 2


You want Resident Evil? Because this is how you get Resident Evil.
posted by MollyRealized at 2:08 PM on August 2


I grew up very much a spider-hater. They were too many, too omnipresent, too...alien or something.

Once, reading a book in bed, I sensed...something. I raised my book to find an enormous wolf spider on the bedspread over my knees.

Over the last decade or so, I've come to appreciate them, to find them fascinating and important, and to do everything I can to let them be. I still occasionally get the yips around them. I've known several people who suffered really bad spider bites. But for the most part, I am trying to get along with the critters.

And wow do I not like this project. It just seems wrong in ways I can't quite articulate.

Also not good: Online trafficking in spiders.
posted by Caxton1476 at 2:23 PM on August 2


I want to see a fairground claw machine with a giant tarantula as the claw.
posted by essexjan at 2:58 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


Necrobotics

I assume all these researchers are donating their bodies to the Robotics departments of their respective institutions.
posted by jamjam at 3:16 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


I heard that Thiel has shown interest in being an angel investor, getting in early. But only if they inject the dead spider legs with the blood of young flies. That's key.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:59 PM on August 2 [1 favorite]


I think you find that his plans are quite a bit bigger than spiders.
posted by acb at 4:09 PM on August 2


Now, if it was necroarachnobotics I'd be impressed.

Necroarachnorobotics
posted by bendy at 4:47 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


from Randy at S*P:

"Oh sure. Blame the messenger, not the Spider Necromancers"
posted by aleph at 8:13 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]




Relatedly, pig zombies.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:08 AM on August 5


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