Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Spiders, dissertations and ayahuasca

From the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society: "During the 1950s, a swiss pharmacologist named Peter Witt conducted a set of experiments in spider doping. He found that the spiders spun uniquely cockeyed webs depending on which substance they had ingested."

a normal spider web

a normal spider web

web woven by spider on caffeine

spider on caffeine

web woven by spider on hash

spider on hash

web woven by spider on mescaline

spider on mescaline

web woven by spider on lsd

spider on lsd

Fascinating. Unsurprisingly, my dissertation currently resembles the caffeinated web. Perhaps I should choose a different drug.


Blogger e-tat said...

Is that LSD web mostly just the radials, with the connectors missing? Sounds like me, then. Couldn't be bothered to finishing the job today. Having too much of a good time and bogging off from work for now.

As for Witt's experiments, I wonder if he could have considered spiders under the influence of not-so-psychoactive conditions. The spider who'd just been through a domestic break-up; the spider that had not lived up to its own career/life expectations; the spider with a beachfront cottage and a splendid nightlife, and so on.

The point being that we, as a society, have generally stopped ascribing people's behaviour to physical and pharmacological agents, and look for a more complex mix of the above with social dynamics. So what happens if we apply that thinking to non-humans?

Given that spiders are susceptible to psychoactive agents, it follows that they are also susceptible to agents that we associate with stress, or pleasure, or philosophical states of mind. Had Witt thought of ways to induce the feeling of having a good night out, or the feeling of being stressed at work, or of a lazy spider with a feeling of abstraction, we might be seeing some other distinctive webs.

Anonymous Icarus said...

This leaves one to wonder if, for example, the caffeinated spider, upon completing its web, didn't look at it and say, "Perfect!"

Anonymous Anonymous said...

this leads me to consider why someone doesnt take this a step further and in another direction, giving it a go with some other animals.

for exmaple: who wants to see beavers trying to build dams stoned?

what about bird's nests?

...ant farms?


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