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NASA's research on spiders reveals the intense effect caffeine has on the nervous system

NASA researched the impact of toxic substances on spiders. And safe to say, humans should look at their coffee consumption.

NASA's research on spiders reveals the intense effect caffeine has on the nervous system
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Egor Kamelev; NASA | David A. Noever et al.

Back in the 1990s, NASA conducted research with spiders as subjects. Their reasoning: spiders were cheap and more accessible. The objective of the research was to see the effect mind-altering drugs had on these 8-legged creatures.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Mark Vegera
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Mark Vegera

The research team included David A. Noever, Raymond J. Cronise and Rachna A. Relwani. In their booklet, the NASA researchers defined the experiment as "a method of studying different web patterns woven by spiders subjected to toxic chemicals," which was a less coslty alternative to more expensive laboratory experimentation, and prevented potential conflicts with animal-rights legislation. The spiders were exposed to various chemicals and later were left to weave. As per the observations, "the more toxic the chemical, the more deformed a web looks" compared with an ordinary web.

The substance that had the major impact on the web-building done by spiders was caffeine. It led to the most disorganized and chaotic output. The result was not surprising as it is widely believed the reason plants created caffeine was to have a protective mechanism in place for insects, per Mirage. The results give some cause for worry to humans since caffeine is a substance that is in wide use within society. People have it in their daily beverages like tea and coffee. Therefore, more research on caffeine's impact on the nervous system needs to be done.

Other substances used in the experiment were benzedrine, marijuana and chloral hydrate. Benzedrine caused the spiders to create larger and less structured webs. Marijuana, on the other hand, made them spin smaller webs while at the same time exhausting them at a faster rate, casuing them to take a lot of breaks in between. Chloral hydrate, a sedative, led to incomplete webs because the spiders fell asleep before completing their work. 

Another NASA scientist who made waves with her experiment was Valerie Thomas, which led to the creation of 3D movies. For her achievements, she was awarded the Goddard Space Flight Center Award of Merit and NASA's Equal Opportunity Medal. She also gave back to the community by mentoring many young brilliant minds in the institute. Her interest in STEM came after watching her father repairing a TV set. After graduation, she went on to work with NASA. During an exhibition, she came across an illusion showcase involving a light bulb and inspired by this, she began conducting her experiments with flat and concave mirrors. She used flat ones to get the reflection of objects behind the glass, while the latter would have a reflection of objects in front of the glass. Thus, formed the basis of 3D technology.

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