Scientists have gotten nothing from giving spiders drugs except photos
October 30, 2015 5:58 AM   Subscribe

It appears Witt imagined a world where all police departments and hospitals have a sort of spider lab. When a patient or inmate behaved strangely, that person's blood would be fed to a spider, which would then be left overnight to build a web. In the morning, a careful look at the spider's handiwork would provide answers. "Aha! My webs indicate this inmate over here is a laudanum addict, and this poor patient is suffering from schizoaffective disorder," a chin-scratching lab technician might have said.
Unfortunately, the only result was "that spiders hate the taste of schizophrenia urine", which is useful if you are schizophrenic, want to get rid of a spiderweb and don't have a home-made flamethrower available.
posted by jeather (47 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Aha! My webs indicate this inmate over here is a laudanum addict, and this poor patient is suffering from schizoaffective disorder," a chin-scratching lab technician time-travelling Doctor/Sherlock might have said.

Fixed.
posted by Fizz at 6:01 AM on October 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I also hate the taste of schizophrenia urine
posted by item at 6:01 AM on October 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


The 2013 is ok
posted by aydeejones at 6:07 AM on October 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


"That spider ripped me off! I gave him all them primo drugs and he just makes a web and gives me the finger"
posted by aydeejones at 6:10 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Schizophrenia Urine would be a great band name.
posted by jonmc at 6:13 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


and don't have a home-made flamethrower available.

I had a college roommate who would get rid of spiderwebs in the high ceiling corners by using a can of WD40 with the tube attachment and a lighter. Scary as hell, but it worked.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:20 AM on October 30, 2015


Oh my God this is fantastic, thank you for posting this! I love the idea of some biologist being like "I want to make a spider documentary. This is my passion, but not to the extent that I'm willing to stay up real late to work on it. Better get some guy to give the spiders a bunch of drugs." and instead of the pharmacologist being like "LOL I am not drugging these spiders" he's like "Oh my God, I can create a real-life version of Charlotte's Web for the mentally ill where instead of 'Terrific' the spiders will write 'Schizophrenic' in their spider language and a horde of graduate students will turn to me to train them in this field and I will go down in history as a GENIUS."

The confluence of super-lazy spider enthusiast and this starry-eyed visionary dreaming of a day when spiders all over the world would provide diagnoses made me love this so much.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:22 AM on October 30, 2015 [24 favorites]


HAHAHAHA seriously what were these two even THINKING? I cannot get over this. I love it so.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:24 AM on October 30, 2015 [6 favorites]




R A D I A N T

 
posted by Herodios at 6:25 AM on October 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


It led to this film (which most of you have seen, but it's still great)

Also, the dress I wearing in my profile picture is based partly on the caffeine spiderweb.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:32 AM on October 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Scary as hell, but it worked.

It doesn't always work out so well.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 6:40 AM on October 30, 2015


We can see this in an example that has nothing to do with drugs. Ichneumonoid wasps plant their larvae on the backs of spiders. At first the spider with a wasp larva living on its back acts pretty normal, Rayor said, "but as the parasitoid gets close to pupating to maturity, it somehow causes changes in the spider's brain so that the webs are built in such a way that they become a retreat for the parasitoid." Essentially the "retreat," works as a rain shelter for the wasp, which the wasp can enjoy while it eats the spider who built it.

NO
posted by louche mustachio at 6:42 AM on October 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


I love you jeather, this is what I need after a shitty day. Thanks! Oh and everybody over here read about the puppy sized spider, I assume?
posted by ouke at 6:43 AM on October 30, 2015


I love it! Like casting lots or auguries.
posted by wormwood23 at 7:01 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am hoping this leads to some kind of fantasy mystery novel where they actually do use spiderwebs instead of GC mass spec.
posted by jeather at 7:14 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Being a parasitzed spider must suck. All them arms and you can't reach shit. "So I guess I'm getting slowly eaten then."
posted by aydeejones at 7:17 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, I have to say I'm amazed that didn't turn out to be a rock solid, easily reproducible scientific technique of incredible value to medical diagnosis. It just makes so much sense.
posted by Naberius at 7:29 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay, I haven't read the article yet but if the quote about the schizophrenia urine is true then does that mean that there's a physical difference in the urine of people with schizophrenia and those without?
posted by I-baLL at 7:36 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


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(per cortex)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:36 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


What is it about studying schizophrenia that seems to bring out the latent schizophrenia in scientists anyway? This science almost manages to top phrenology and water dowsing on the woo-to-rational-thinking-ratiometer.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:43 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Apparently spiders do not like any urine (even a nice sweet sugary urine), and make the same webs no matter what mental illness the person who peed does or doesn't have. I feel I have learned so much today.
posted by jeather at 8:18 AM on October 30, 2015


Based entirely on some of the therapists/psychiatrists I've met with in my lifetime, I'm sorry that the "peeing on a spider" method of diagnosis is not valid. It would sure beat sitting in an office with some of those folks.
posted by xingcat at 8:28 AM on October 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I had a college roommate who would get rid of spiderwebs in the high ceiling corners by using a can of WD40 with the tube attachment and a lighter. Scary as hell, but it worked.

did the concept of going outside to get a really big stick elude him somehow or did he just like fire?
posted by poffin boffin at 8:32 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had a college roommate who would get rid of spiderwebs in the high ceiling corners by using a can of WD40 with the tube attachment and a lighter. Scary as hell, but it worked.

Ah, redneck flame throwers. Hairspray works great for this, and I forget what-all else -- most aerosols. I use to use this technique to kill roaches under my kitchen cabinet when I lived in a rent shack with a bad infestation. It's a wonder I didn't die in a fire several times.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:34 AM on October 30, 2015


I have learned so much, and the few coworker in the office who came in today have also learned something. Probably to run away when I pop up saying "You won't believe what I just learned about spiders!"
posted by lepus at 8:36 AM on October 30, 2015


carburetor cleaner is *great* for making flammable aerosols.
posted by Fraxas at 9:06 AM on October 30, 2015


In 1948, the German zoologist Hans Peters wanted to make a documentary about spiders building webs, but couldn't because he didn't want to stay up past 2AM to watch it happen. Peters got his pharmacologist colleague Peter Witt to rig up a system for giving the spiders drugs in doses of sugar water, all in the hopes that their scrambled brains would lose track of the time, and make some webs during normal work hours.


I might question this gentleman's problem-solving skills.
posted by univac at 9:20 AM on October 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


You Can't Know If You Don't Try.
posted by clawsoon at 9:26 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


carburetor cleaner is *great* for making flammable aerosols.

I know this is a rather long piece of text but it would make for a great MetaFilter user name. Just saying .

Either that or your out of office e-mail signature/auto-reply.
posted by Fizz at 9:27 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I believe you folks might enjoy iconoclast-angry-young-man-esoteric-obsessive Colin Wilson's Spider World (futuristic overlords) trilogy. (trigger warning for misogyny, although less so than in his other works)
posted by mollymillions at 9:27 AM on October 30, 2015


It appears Witt imagined a world where all police departments and hospitals have a sort of spider lab.

I have always loved the web photos but did not know this context. I desperately want to live in a world where detectives have to wait until tomorrow morning for their spider results to come in.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:32 AM on October 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


I want stories about the forensic spiderologists who wrangle the science spiders in the basement.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:46 AM on October 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Spiders lurking in the basement's deepest and darkest corners, raised from birth on human blood, grown beyond all measure over countless years, fed nothing but the poisonous fluids of the evil, the desperate and the insane, always hungering for more, ready to consume the world and cast it into darkness
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:06 AM on October 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Kowalski, I want answers! You get back down there to those nerds in the basement and you tell them we need to know how the victim died. Damn it, Kowalski, I'm too old for this crap!"

"Yes Sir!" Kowalski saluted and hot-footed it to the basement. "Sanders!" he called to a young woman with dreadlocks and a lab coat "Hey Sanders! You got those results for me?"

"I TOLD you, Kowalski, we won't be done running the lab tests until morning. You know how it works -- the spiders only spin webs at night. We've fed the spiders blood from your victim, now we need to wait until they spin their webs before we can interpret the results. Come back in the morning and I'll have something for you."

"Fine, fine. Hey Sanders, as long as I'm waiting all night, how about coming out for a drink with me?"

Sanders rolled her eyes "No matter how many times you ask, Kowalski, I'm never going to say yes".

Kowalski jogged up the stairs and Sanders turned to the final spiders "Here you go, guys," she crooned, giving them droplets of blood from carefully labelled vials, "Let's solve some crimes."

The next morning she got up from her cot in the basement lab -- Sanders always kept a close watch on her spiders -- and rubbed her bleary eyes. Then rubbed them again. Then yelled "Wilson, I need you to come look at this!" Wilson ran in, panting "Jesus, Tamara, don't scare me like that, what's the big..." and drew in her breath in horror. "The...the web! I've never seen anything like it! Can we run it again?" Sanders shook her head. "You know we'll have to wait until tonight. You know they won't spin webs during the day." "But isn't there something we can do? Something we can give them?" "You want to give those spiders something ELSE? After what they just did?"

As the two women stared in horror at the wall they heard Kowalski coming down the stairs whistling "Wilson, Sanders, you got anything for me?" He found them gaping in horror. "What's going on?" he asked them. "You see this web here?" Sanders answered, "You see what it looks like?" Kowalski looked. "It looks like...a spider web?" he ventured. "No" Sanders answered, "the weft of the web actually doubles back on itself. Counterclockwise AND clockwise. And the weft strands here are all tangled up on the third and fifth vertices. I've seen tangles on vertex one, two, eight, even six and seven a couple of times, but three and five? I've never seen anything like it."

"In English, please?"

"Don't you see what this means? The victim's blood was full of spider venom. And the venom came from these very spiders. Kowalski...the killer's someone inside the department."
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:06 AM on October 30, 2015 [45 favorites]


Wow, I always assumed those photos were a hoax/joke! Who the hell would feed drugs to spiders? But no, it's real. It's all too real. Thank you for posting this.
posted by capricorn at 10:08 AM on October 30, 2015


Also (just missed it on preview) thank you for getting Mrs. Pterodactyl to write fanfiction as I have long believed this is a thing that needed to happen.
posted by capricorn at 10:09 AM on October 30, 2015


Steampunk, dieselpunk, spiderpunk.
posted by acb at 10:10 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh and everybody over here read about the puppy sized spider, I assume?

I wonder how long it will be until somebody figures out how to domesticate and breed those. I can see a market for them. If you could train them to sit on one's shoulder, pirate-parrot-fashion, even more so.
posted by acb at 10:13 AM on October 30, 2015


Yeah, but you'd have to have some sort of neckguard to protect yourself from urticating hairs from your shoulder-spider, then.

Or if you're hardcore -- the sort of hardcore that isn't satisfied with just the spider -- you could walk around with a distinctive rash. They could call it spiderneck, or something cooler the kids would no doubt come up with.
posted by rewil at 10:28 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Presumably the selective breeding process for domestication would yield a non-venomous variety.
posted by acb at 10:32 AM on October 30, 2015


carburetor cleaner is *great* for making flammable aerosols.

well great, now I've got Lacquer Head stuck in my head
posted by Existential Dread at 11:16 AM on October 30, 2015


> "Oh and everybody over here read about the puppy sized spider, I assume?"

From that article, as has already been pointed out: "At first, the scientist thought the behavior was 'cute,' he said, but then he realized the spider was sending out a cloud of hairs with microscopic barbs on them."

Just wanted to say, I'm finding that one scene from Prometheus slightly more believable now.
posted by kyrademon at 11:59 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


you'd have to have some sort of neckguard to protect yourself from urticating hairs from your shoulder-spider

You could just train a swarm of harvestmen to cluster around your neck instead. They're silky-soft and tickly.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:29 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


why would you even
posted by poffin boffin at 1:48 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because TICKLY.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:56 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Harvestmen aren't really spiders, but when they're thick enough that they start falling off the cave ceiling in big mats a foot or two across when you've disturbed them, and they land on your head or back, it can get unnerving.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:30 PM on October 30, 2015


You could just train a swarm of harvestmen yt to cluster around your neck instead. They're silky-soft and tickly.

Ha, I know Her! She's a very active local Austin caver that I saw just last weekend at the Texas Caver's Reunion. Seriously, less bothered by harvestmen than me, obviously. There's some other caving videos on her YouTube channel.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:37 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


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