Saturday, June 5, 2010

When I look inside your head Right up front to the back of your skull

Good news for Jennifer! From the Annals of Homeopathy Department we learn that a spider-based remedy an expensive dose of water indirectly exposed to extract of Portia fimbriata is recommended for sensitivity to noise, thin blood, "boundary issues, sensation of paralysis, MS and possibly anorexia. The proving brought to light also chemical sensitiveness, spider phobia, phantom pregnancy and panic attacks."
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Here's Portia fimbriata in unextracted form. Her main eyes are miniature telephoto lenses, running the full length of her cephalothorax. They have no field of view to speak of (so she has auxiliary eyes for side vision) but in terms of acuity they're better than a cat's or a pigeon's eyes.

Portia's retina is not a sheet of photosensors as in our eyes, picking out umpteen details at once in massively parallel processing, but rather a one-dimensional sort of boomerang that shuttles back and forth across the focal plane as if the visual world is a bar-code to be scanned. She adjusts the angle of the retina to pick out different bar-codes. Also she can reverse the polarity of her eyes and project laser beams from them. O RLY? No, not RLY.
What with this visual acuity and her complex behavioural repertoire, arachnologists wax lyrical about Portia and come up with endearments like "eight-legged cats". The behavioural complexity is because she predates other spiders in preference to insects, and sometimes her prey is a webspinner and sometimes it is a stalking- pouncing-type wolf spider so she has a range of strategies to match each potential target. Also it helps to recognise other members of her species in time to mate with them before attempting to eat them. Actually this is good advice in general, not just for spiders, ARE YOU READING THIS Frau Doktorin?

Also, she solves mazes. Given a choice of pathways bent coathangers to follow, Portia will eschew the more direct path that becomes a dead-end, and pick the roundabout path that will lead her to FEED ME SEYMOUR despite initially heading away from it. This is more deferred-gratification forward planning than I possess myself but at least I am better than her at using "eschew" in Scrabble games.

Several decades ago I flatted with Mike Tarsitano who was studying Portia's maze-solving abilities. Several times a day he would creep around the house with a supply of plastic specimen bottles, catching orb and wolf spiders to take out to the university as food for his experimental subjects, or at least that was the excuse he would give. The business with the mason jars is another story entirely. I have no idea why they're called that name since they turn out not to be large enough to contain an entire mason.
UPDATED: Bonus O RLY.
UPDATED²: intended to cite earlier spider-related studies by Fish but got side-tracked.

9 comments:

merc said...

I learned stuff.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

an expensive dose of water indirectly exposed to extract of Portia fimbriata is recommended for sensitivity to noise, thin blood, "boundary issues, sensation of paralysis, MS and possibly anorexia.

Feh, it's a poor substitute for Moxie.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Indirectly exposed?

Does that mean the glass of water sits next to a sample of extract?
~

Smut Clyde said...

ITTDGY has grasped the central principle of homeopathy,* though I understand that there is also succussion.

* See also "American beer", with 'hops' taking the place of 'sample of extract'.

mikey said...

The very same concept applies to the production of the perfect Gin Martini. You pour the chilled Gin whilst looking at the label of an unopened Vermouth bottle.

An additional benefit is that you never run out of Vermouth...

fish said...

I would have thought that I deserved at least a citation for discovering spider telescoping eyes in the future.

Smut Clyde said...

Fish is right. I had intended to cite that seminal study but then got sidetracked with the whole Homeopathy thing.

merc said...

I read a second seminal study today.

reprokru, we comming fo yo debt.

Jennifer said...

I almost missed this.

Damn.

While I did manage to put the black glasses on the creepy spider... it didn't make me laugh, but did indeed up the bad ante for the speedra.

I refuse to read the post.