Drumroll please, 8-armed drummer, for this is the first of our guest contributions. See the “Guest Contributions” tab for more details about this new exciting feature which may/may not return later on, depending on how many humans are left after Spidergeddon. If you want to feature here in the future, send in your photos, text, finger-paintings or anything else to email@example.com.
So, our first guest contribution is from Professor. J. In this important, informative article we have a serious look at what happens to our brains when we see a spider, and how the evil seeps into our psyche. I’ll leave you in Professor J’s capable hands…
If we’re being completely up front about this, I think we can all admit to finding spiders just a wee bit unsettling. Go on, you don’t have to tell me but you can just nod at the monitor. As somebody with several science-type qualifications who’s seen quite a few spiders around the house and sometimes in the shed I’m going to explore with you today some of the reasons why we find spiders bothersome and what you can do to make sharing a planet with them a bit more bearable.
Spiders are unpredictable
If you see a human mooching around somewhere, you can be pretty sure which direction they’re going to move in. It’s going to be forwards. You don’t often see people move backwards or sideways. Same goes for tigers really – their whole thing is based around running very fast forwards too, so if you’re behind a tiger there’s not much to be concerned about (disclaimer: don’t ever go anywhere near tigers as they’ll catch you and eat you). Crabs are a little bit more difficult because they can go left or right with no indication, but at least there’s still a safe zone to the front and back.
Spiders, though are what we professionals call a ‘whole different kettle of fish’. If you stand in front of a spider, it might run at you. Behind? Still in danger. To the left or right? Nope. Wherever you are in relation to a spider, you’re a target.
I’m a pretty dab hand with scientifically accurate diagrams so I’ll use one here to explain it in layman’s terms:
Spiders have lots of legs
It’s a well known phenomenon in science circles that the number of legs on a species is directly proportional to the number of people who are scared by that species. This is largely because legs can be used for so many things, and the more of them you have the more things those legs can be doing at any one time.
Take Paula Radcliffe. Paula can run a marathon on two legs in 2h 15m or thereabouts. Assuming each of her legs provides half the energy she needs to propel herself to the finish line, imagine what eight legs can do for you! We can find out by working through the maths like so:
2 legs = 2h 15m
4 legs = 1h 7.5m
8 legs = 33m 45s
So although Paula is an incredible runner and an inspiration to us all, she would have a torrid time keeping up with our friend the spider who could probably run 26 miles in just over half an hour! To further illustrate the point I’ve included a graph from the popular science book “Legs – Getting One Over on the Competition” (Harper et al 2009):
This neatly leads into the next area in which spiders scare us all silly. Speed.
Spiders can run very fast.
Spiders aren’t slow. I mean, you’re not scared of a hedgehog or a snail because a quick sprint will take you well out of harm’s way when they start kicking off. Applying the same mathematic principles from the previous chapter we see that – yet again – spiders come out on top of the nature pile and will make a mockery of your sprinting. We’re going to pop Paula back into this equation here – her marathon running prowess yields an average running speed over the 26 miles of 11.55555555555556 mph. Gordon Bennett, that’s impressive. Well, prepare to have your socks well and truly blown off:
2 legs = 11.55555555555556 mph
4 legs = 23.11111111111111 mph
8 legs = 46.22222222222222 mph
FORTYSIXMILESPERHOUR. To put that in context, that’s faster than popular American automobile the Ford Model T and not far off the top speed of an American Quarter Race Horse. So if you’re confronted with a spider don’t even think about hopping in your popular car or on your horse, they’ll chase you down without breaking into a sweat.
Spiders – they’re a concern
That just about brings an end to my small foray into the science behind the fear of spiders. As we’ve seen in this illustrated guide spiders are 360 degree killing machines with three times as many legs as Paula Radcliffe who can definitely run at almost 50 miles per hour. If you were playing Top Trumps then spiders would be banned.
What can you do to feel safe around these ultra-death multi-eyed turbo-legs ultra-speeders? Well, looking at our first diagram the clever amongst you will probably be thinking “Ah HA. I know, I’ll just stand above a spider to be out of the circle of death. That’s only a 2D diagram so I’m safe up here in my third dimension.” Well I’ve got some bad news for you bub. Jumping spiders are a thing that exists and according to sources they can jump 25 times their body length. If they were a human that would work out at 150 feet. That’s around two thirds the length of a football pitch!
So in short, you probably can’t do anything. They can walk into your house at night, tippy-tapping all over your naked body, sleeping on your toothbrush and chilling in your underwear drawer. They can see more, kick more, run faster and set webby traps for you to walk into on your bleary-eyed struggle to the cereal each morning. Yep, you’re pretty much screwed.
My advice? Make friends.