5 Animals That Casually Play Tricks With the Laws of Physics

#2. Spiders Are Masters of Static Electricity

kurga/iStock/Getty Images

Whether they can hurt us or not (and chances are they can't), spiders still have to be the most universally loathed of all of Nature's children. But we wouldn't hate them if we knew them better, right? Like if we could get down and really see one up close?

Institute of Physics
Nope.

That's a spider's foot, by the way. Those feathery bits help it stick to walls, windows, and your shoulder, right now. But its ability to cling has squat to do with glue-like stickiness or natural Velcro hooks. No, as it turns out, these little monsters are masters of static electricity. A spider's tiny toe dusters take advantage of a natural phenomenon called van der Waals force, where the electrons between Spidey's hairs jitter around in close quarters until a negative and a positive finally meet. And just as MC Skat Kat prophesied, opposites attract, in this case creating a bond that results in the spark necessary for a spider to hang in there like the kitten on one of those inspirational posters.

Even the spider's web uses electricity to get what it wants. That's right, the web. The damn thing might not technically be alive, but to the poor flies that it literally reaches out to grab and turn into dinner, it might as well be.

Victor Ortega-Jimenez, UC Berkeley
Such electric webs can be found worldwide.

Yep, the idea of spiderwebs as sticky mini-sarlaccs waiting patiently for clumsy-ass prey to carelessly crash onto their plate is pure bullshit. Thanks to static electricity, webs actually show more initiative when finding food than the average college kid. This happens because insects, while aimlessly flapping around as they're wont to do, tend to shed negative electrons, becoming positive. Spiderwebs, which are typically neutral or negatively charged, respond to the presence of positivity the only way they know how -- by literally reaching out and grabbing the source, like a fishing net with a mind of its own and a never-ending appetite.

#1. The Oriental Hornet Is Goddamn Solar-Powered

Avinoam Michaely

Almost every living thing feeds off the sun. It's just that for most of us, there are several middlemen (plant eats sunlight, cow eats plant, human eats cow). Hey, wouldn't this whole thing be easier if our bodies were solar-powered?

Christopher Ingram/iStock/Getty Images
"Fuck off, pants!"

Well, Vespa orientalis, aka the oriental hornet, aka the one creature you don't want inside your hat, is partially powered by solar panels on its skin, which explains why it stalks the innocent during the day, whereas most other hornets prefer to terrify those who dare cross their paths in the early morning. Researchers captured some of them and shined them with an ultraviolet light, probably as a routine check for vampirism, and noticed that the hornets sprang into action.

When they stuck the specimens under a microscope, scientists found special structures on the exoskeleton that are incredibly efficient at collecting sunlight and converting it into electricity. Now, the hornets haven't achieved a purely solar-based physiology -- they still have to eat like everybody else. So what do they do with the power? Scientists think part of it gets transferred to the muscles that operate the wings, but the rest goes to air conditioning.

Gideon Pisanty
"I want to be comfortable when I'm ruining your shit."

That's right -- while these hornets thrive in hot and sunny environments (sorry, England, no solar bugs for you), scientists have discovered that they actually possess a low body temperature, which suggests that they're converting excess sunlight into electricity to cool themselves.

Hell, even their cocoons have photoelectric properties, harnessing sunlight to keep the pupae inside toasty and help it fully develop into a beautiful wriggling baby maggot, eager to face the world and make it scream.

Well, guys, looks like it's time to blot out the sun.

Nepenthes
"Then we will sting in the shade."


Mr. Yee writes funny fortune cookies in a way no other animal can match. He also has a Kraken pirate that you might enjoy.

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Related Reading: Physics isn't the only thing in nature animals have been screwing around with -- they don't play by the rules of evolution either. And, you know what else laughs in the face of physics? Unbelievable substances like plastic that is only one atom thick and gases heavy enough to float solid objects.

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