gratuitous image
6 February 1996

NASA Spiders on Drugs

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration gave drugs to spiders to see what would happen. After giving the spiders marijuana, benzedrine, caffeine and chloral hydrate, the spiders created unusual webs. To a lay person, it seemed like a predictable experiment.

Predictably, sometimes pictures do serve as mirrors. NASA's hard-working proponents of Calvinist efficiency must see these images as an unambiguous warning against using drugs: that path leads toward abnormality. Others will point to these weird webs as evidence of the purported link between mind-altering substances and creativity: that path leads toward abnormality. I am sure NASA's press office released the photographs of these tangled webs as a cautionary tale; I am less sure if they achieved the desired result. Everyone I know has found these unusual webs much more interesting than the normal variety.

For me the most interesting images from this experiment are my mental images of the eight-legged spiders clumsily manipulating microscopic drug paraphernalia under the earnest gaze of NASA scientists. The next time I go to a party I'm going to wear a white lab coat and carry a clipboard.

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©1996 David Glenn Rinehart