A parallel Worlds

Monday April 21 2014 / Science & Technology

Most of us have an extrovert friend that we secretly envy. He or she always seems to grab all the attention from the opposite sex.


This friend is not shy to wear outfits in daring colours or attempt impossible dance moves in nightclubs. A real peacock. Or perhaps a Peacock Spider?

Male Peacock Spiders are flamboyant creatures that can put peacocks - the bird or human variety - to shame.

Octavius Pickard-Cambridge, the scientist who named the first species, noted: "It is difficult to describe adequately the great beauty of the colouring of this spider."

Nowadays, the name Peacock Spider is used collectively to denote many similar-looking spider species including some that have never been named, let alone studied.

Native to Australia, they are not just pretty but talented as well. 

These arachnids can out-dance anything else on eight legs. Just watch the video below to see how:

We still do not know much about them. But what we do know is that they are not poisonous, they have huge eyes and engage in complex mating rituals.

The male makes the most of his vivid colours and dance moves to seduce the rather drab looking female.

If the female is happy with his performance, they mate.

If she is not in the mood, she eats him for dinner!

One man responsible for raising the profile of the Peacock Spider is Jürgen Otto. An entomologist by profession, his encounter with the colourful spiders was pure chance, as he specialises in different creatures called marine mites.

“I did not know anything about them until I stumbled over one during a walk in nearby bushland (near Sydney), purely by accident," he says. "I had no idea at the time what it was or that there were other similar species."

Jürgen is most likely the first person to capture footage of the Peacock Spider’s courtship ritual.

Indeed, it is not the colour that attracted him to these tiny critters – he is partially colour-blind – but their complex behaviour that is unexpected in such small animals.

“I love the way they interact with their environment, how they exhibit fear, excitement and curiosity,” he says.

When Jürgen began filming them he simply used the video option on his Canon EOS 7D with a 100 mm macro lens.

He later realised that this basic gear was ideal for the task, as it allowed him to follow the spiders as they moved. His photography methods remain the same except for a more updated version of camera.

For Jürgen, the hardest thing about photographing Peacock Spiders was not camera equipment or fast-moving spiders, but avoiding squashing them by accident. These tiny beasts are only a few millimetres in length.

These amazing creatures can change the way we think of spiders – as ugly, scary and predatory.

“These spiders are perceived as cute, even by the staunchest of arachnophobes,” says Jürgen. “And I regularly get comments from people telling me how watching my videos have helped them to overcome their fear of spiders.”

And it's difficult not to agree. They are are beautiful, complex and lovable. Well, at least the males are!

For more information, please visit Jürgen Otto’s Facebook page and YouTube channel dedicated to Peacock Spiders.

Suggested by
Steven Rogers

Monday April 14 2014 / Science & Technology - Art & Design - A Little Levity

Outlandish events often begin life in the most banal manner. You need only look at the world of Hollywood blockbusters for confirmation of this.

A random person eating a hot dog, mowing the lawn, or waiting for a bus suddenly spots the alien spaceships landing in the opening scenes of a movie. Eyes pop, jaws drop, men stare in disbelief, women scream, and then all the interesting stuff commences.

Monday April 7 2014 / Science & Technology - Art & Design

Convention centres have many things in common with airports. Both are places where people fly in for business and then leave without much memory of where they’ve been.

Unflattering words like ‘generic’ and ‘monolithic’ are often used to describe them, despite the important role these structures play in our lives.

However, through bold architecture and creative technology, a few of these functional buildings stand out and deliver a unique experience for the people who use them.

Part of this new breed of public architecture is the state-of-the-art SwissTech Convention Center (STCC) inaugurated last week at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL) on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

Monday March 24 2014 / Science & Technology - Art & Design

Jumping, balancing and controlled falling are skills we associate with ballerinas, acrobats and figure skaters. These performers are capable of transforming these three movements into an art form, but it takes years of training and discipline.

Now a little box-shaped robot called Cubli is using jumping, balancing and controlled falling to move in amazing ways.

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