Sunday, February 8, 2009

She Blinded Me With Science

The Scientific Method is a pretty cool deal. You vary some aspect across groups of subjects, then make some measurement to see if that aspect makes a difference in some outcome measure of interest. If there's a difference, you can't really say that the thing you varied made exactly the difference you measured, because there's always variability anyway, but depending on the size of the outcome difference, you can say you're pretty sure that the thing you varied didn't NOT make the difference. Or something like that. So replication is important, in that it decreases the likelihood that the measured differences were due to chance.

Another big concept in scientific experiments is that of generalizability. If you do an experiment using only female subjects, for example, you can't necessarily generalize the results and conclusions to males. So experiments are often repeated using additional groups in order to be able to generalize further.

Okay, that's Research Methods 101.

So I was saying to myself the other day, "You know, Dead Acorn, you have kind of a sciencey background - maybe you could do some kind of experiment at home and use this blog to present the results!" And so, without further ado:

Most of us have seen the pictures (click to enlarge photos) of the spider webs spun on different types of drugs (Witt, 1948, I think, or maybe 1965, but this is a stupid blog, not Nature, so screw your citation):

Above: web of a normal spider.

Above: web of a spider given THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

The web of the spider on THC (arachnidis Spiccolius) clearly shows some deficiencies. Different effects were seen for different types of drugs. However, from our discussion on generalizability above, we know that we can't say that such drugs also have a detrimental effect on humans.

Enter the Dead Acorn.

In an effort to extend these findings to humans, I performed an experiment in the controlled laboratory-esque environment of my house, and observed the effect of alcohol on a subject's ability to drywall a ceiling by himself (drywalling being the human analogue of a spider spinning a web). In the experimental condition, the subject drank a copious amount of beer (unfortunately, lab notes were found to be incomplete after the trial, so the exact number of beers is unknown). In the control condition, the subject only had a few, as the control condition was run before noon. Purists may argue that a true control condition would be with no beer whatsoever, but c'mon, it's fucking drywalling.

The results are as follows:

Control condition: the sheets are close together, few screws were overdrilled, and the sheets butted the framing quite nicely.

Above: relatively sober drywalling.

Experimental condition (exhibit 1): the subject apparently felt that a single 2x4 was sufficient to hold up the sheet while screws were being fixed. It wasn't. Further, note the missing corner, where the subject attempted to "finesse" the sheet in without using the proper tool to cut a sliver off the edge. Lastly, note the 3" spacing of screws, resulting from the subject's conclusion that "shit, I guess I'd better make sure the rest of this is really REALLY secure."

Above: experimental drywalling.

Experimental condition (exhibit 2): the alcohol clearly affected the visual acuity of the subject, resulting in a marked inability to see straight, as evidenced by the dispersion of missed screws. Further, the subject showed no interest in using the square and a pencil to draw a line indicating the joist location, though both were easily within reach.

Above: more experimental drywalling.


1. Alcohol messes up people just like the wacky-tobacky messes up a spider.

2. People can save drywall jobs with some imagination, mesh cloth, and a 5-gallon tub o' mud. Spiders could conceivably use tree sap or something like that, but to date, this has not been observed. Further research is warranted.

3. I really need a master carpenter.

Some helpful Canadians have provided video documenting the effects of various drugs on the wood spider. It's hilarious very enlightening and educational.


Sarah said...

This may be your best post yet.
I actually did pee my pants.

Johnny Drunk and Gone said...

Wow...that's all I can

Sheri said...

That is hysterical! I lurk here now and then and am a friend of Sarah's. This is the funniest post I've ever read.

tsg said...

Brilliant study! As such, you are now societally obliged to enlighten us with further scientific endeavor. The test, done "with dry wall", is a clear psycho-pathoneumonic expression of your subconscious need to perform your next home construction study in "withdrawal". Fortunetly, you will have severe insomnia which will allow you to complete the study protocol without delay. Also, you will not have to stop and eat due to the nausea and vomiting. Your pupils will be huge which will allow you to work in low light conditions. The tremor may be a problem but how could you miss the studs any worse than when loaded? The paranoia and hallucinations may lead to some creative discovery. For safety, keep a rescue bottle of beer nearby to take if you think that an epileptic fit is becoming imminent. To science!

Anonymous said...

MurrayR says:

Fucking brilliant. Better than ever.