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Giant Spider Invasion

Series info on UEN-TV

B-film fans have a lot to enjoy with "Giant Spider Invasion" (1975), from its turbid subplots to the appearance of Bill Hale (the Skipper on "Gilligan's Island"), to the lame-tacular special effects. (Some of the spiders are disguised VW Bugs that leave tread marks—it doesn't get any better than that!) The basic story is that a meteorite bearing diamonds and creepy critters lands in Ev and Dan Kestler's back 40. Soon the Wisconsin town of Merrill has to deal with more than the standard human dramas generated by lying, cheating, and horsing around.

As silly as this film may be, it taps into a basic fear shared by millions of people worldwide: the fear of spiders. Perhaps it's because for every one spider we see, there are countless others; perhaps it's their silent, sneaky way of scuttling out from under some harmless object we've just picked up. Perhaps it's the multiple sets of eyes and legs and their propensity for draining their prey's fluids rather than just eating them outright. Yet the level of risk from an encounter with a spider (on Earth, at least) is exceedingly small. According to the 1993 article "Human Fatalities Caused By Venomous Animals in Utah, 1900 - 1990" (published in Great Basin Naturalist Volume 53), only four of twenty deaths by venom were attributed to spiders. The researchers, Richard Straight and James Glenn, analyzed death certificates for the 91-year period, and discovered that the most recent death from a "probable" spider bite within the study's timeframe was reported in 1968.

Arachnaphobes may also find comfort in the fact that it takes many hours, even days, for the effects of spider venom to seriously harm a human. So even if the bite were to occur in one's sleep (as it's believed most spider bites do), a victim would have a fair chance of getting treatment in plenty of time for a full recovery. As Straight and Glenn point out, beestings are far more dangerous to humans due to the rapid onset of an extreme allergic reaction which causes the airways of susceptible individuals to swell to the point that breathing is impossible. Such a reaction accounted for half of the twenty deaths by venomous animals.

The Science

Jake Abbott

Dr. Jake AbbottMechanical Engineer Jake Abbott of the Telerobotics Lab at the University of Utah discusses robotics and technology in the film “Giant Spider Invasion.”


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Dr. Jake Abbott

Mechanical Engineering - University of Utah

Telerobotics Laboratory

Utah Telerobotics Research

Les Machines de l’Ile

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