Giving LSD to Spiders

 Web of spider tripping on LSD

I miss Carl Sagan.  I never him personally but wish I did.  You can kinda meet him through reading one of the many books he published in his lifetime.  Last night, I was reading Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Random House, 1993) and came across this passage:

When spiders are given LSD or other consciousness-altering drugs, their webs become less symmetrical, more erratic or, we might say, less obsessive, more freeform — but also less effective in catching insects.  What has a tripping spider forgotten?

Whoa — back up a second there, Carl.  “When spiders are given LSD…”  Is anyone else stymied by that?  Giving spiders LSD — man, I missed that day at school.  If I had LSD, the LAST thing I would give it to is a spider.  I’d bunker down in the basement and enjoy the light show.  What drug was the scientist on that thought, “I know — let’s give LSD to a spider and see what happens!”

Apparently the guy who thought this experiment up was a Dr. Nick Burcel, a private physician in Los Angeles who worked for the CIA back in the 1950s.  The CIA wanted to know what would happen to people if, say, the water supply was spiked with LSD.  Somehow, that lead to spiders on LSD.  And spiders haven’t been given just LSD in the name of science.  There have been numerous experiments of spiders on a cornucopia of drugs.  Almost makes me want to be a spider.

And just how would you give a spider LSD, anyway?  Throw fake wings on a tab and toss it into a web?  According to this site, web-spinning spiders need a dose of 0.1-0.3 µg to make webs while tripping.  Now I have to figure out what a “µg” is.

Wondering about this stuff keeps me up at night.  No wonder I’m stressed.  Spiders in government laboratories are doing better than I am.  And I have two college degrees, for Chrissakes.  Not that degrees in Liberal Arts and English will help me with spiking spiders, but for the money I spent for those two degrees, I feel like I should know this stuff.

It’s too bad Carl Sagan is dead.  I’d love to keep shooting him emails until he could explain himself.


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