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Spiders on Caffeine

So you want a reliable way to test the toxicity of various chemicals.  You could get a bunch of chimpanzees and ply them with various mind-altering substances to see what they do, but that’s expensive, time-consuming, and many would say unethical.  And when the experiment’s over you’re stuck with a whole lot of strung out simians who are four times stronger than comparably sized humans and live to be 50+ years old.  Besides, how exactly do you measure how stoned a chimpanzee is?

So in 1995, a group of very creative scientists from NASA decided to use…


The common garden spider, to be exact.

The scientists got the spiders high on marijuana, benzedrine (speed), caffeine, chloral hydrate (a date rape drug), and let them loose to spin their webs.  The results were pretty dramatic:

Image of spider webs made by drugged spiders


Now, there are a few holes in this experiment, which might be why it isn’t currently a standard test in labs throughout the country.  The spider’s brain is slightly smaller than a poppy seed, for example.  And there is no reason to believe that human brains synthesize chemicals the same way, or that spiders will react to those brain signals in a similar way.


Image of spider web made by drugged spiders

Image of spider web made by drugged spiders



Bottom line:  Go NASA!