Tuesday, 11 July 2017
Spiders on LSD
In 1948 H.M. Peters, zoologist from the University of Tubingen, began filming the web-building techniques of the orb spider as part of a research project into web building methods. As orb spiders build their webs between 2am- 5am, Peters soon got bored and encouraged his colleague and pharmacologist (according to Rainer Foelix, in his book Biology of Spiders) Peter Witt to alter the diurnal habit of the spiders so he could film during the day. Witt recommended amphetamine, which had some starling effects. The spiders still made webs in the early hours, but to a different design, which prompted experiments with several other drugs. The results of these experiments are legendary. Probably the most interesting result is caffeine given its universality as a drug. I remember reading the NASA Tech Brief on this subject with some fascination as a student teacher. If more students were aware that science progresses through the laziness of zoologists, and curiosity of drug- crazed pharmacologists, there would be more interest in the subject.