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In science fiction there are a lot of spiders or spider-like creatures depicted in space. In real life there have also been a lot of studies done on spiders in space. Has science fiction been influenced by the real life studies of spiders in space, or have the real life studies been influenced by the popularity of spiders in science fiction? Or are humans simply so fascinated with spiders that they have become common in science fiction and in real space studies coincidentally?

Spiders in Space

If science fiction was influenced by real life studies, then we should see more spiders in space in science fiction after real life studies commenced.

If real life studies were influenced by science fiction, then we should be able to find allusions to science fiction spiders in documentation of real life studies.

migrated from space.stackexchange.com Oct 9 '13 at 15:29

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  • A good answer should say whether or not there is a connection between science fiction space spiders and real space spider studies. If there is a connection, it should indicate which influenced which and why they are so popular in both. If there is not a connection, it should describe why they become popular in each individually. "Cool" factor is probably a big component, but I suspect not the only reason. – called2voyage Oct 8 '13 at 21:19
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    I wasn't aware of the popularity of space-spiders in fiction. Is this true? – user6972 Oct 8 '13 at 22:12
  • @TildalWave The question is not whether individual pieces of fiction were inspired by real space spiders or not, but whether science fiction as a whole experienced a boom of space spiders after spiders started being used in real space studies. It looks quantifiable to me. – called2voyage Oct 9 '13 at 12:37
  • @john3103 I suppose it might be slightly more on topic over there, but I figured it would be of interest here because of the focus on spiders in the study of animals in space. – called2voyage Oct 9 '13 at 14:50
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    Well, spiders are pretty cool. – Voldemort Oct 10 '13 at 5:41
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I would say that the real and fictional occurrence of spiders in space are mostly independant.

Spiders are very common in all kinds of fiction, going back to ancient legendary figures like Arachne and Anansi. I think your reference to a general fascination with spiders is spot on - note also that no other animal is so commonly the subject of phobia.

On the other hand, real world experiments on spiders in space seem to be focused on the question how microgravity affects web building:

In addition to looking at gravitational biology in spiders, the examination of a spider's solution for producing a web with minimal gravity could have practical applications. On Earth, spiders can use gravity (their body weight) and/or manipulation of their spinnerettes to extrude several different types of silk. Even when the chemical composition of the silk is unchanged, the rate and mechanism used to pull the silk determines its mechanical properties. Similarly, altering methods of producing manmade fibers can result in materials that are more elastic, stronger, etc. Understanding the way a spider builds its web in space may help engineers build web-like structures for space stations and other aerospace architecture.

There does, however, also seem to be a "cool factor" involved:

The project was also intended to foster interest in space exploration and scientific research for the Australian students.

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    +1 Great answer! I love how you addressed the practical side of real world experiments. – called2voyage Oct 9 '13 at 16:05
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    +1 "no other animal is so commonly the subject of phobia" – System Down Oct 9 '13 at 16:48

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