Slime mold pattern

The first edition of the Bio-Logic workshop took place, with the objective of exploring and experimenting on possible ways to design artificial systems, by combining digital strategies and living material. The chosen living protagonist of the whole experience has been, without any doubt, a micro-organism, Physarum polycephalum, commonly known as slime-mold.

Slime molds are neither plants nor animals nor fungi but they could be considered a hybrid living organisms; their development cycle is unique. Also known as myxomycetes, they are a group of heterotroph organisms: this means that they use organic substrates to get chemical energy for their life cycle. During the workshop we used a particular kind of slime mold called Physarum polycephalum; it forms giant cells with multiple nuclei (plasmodia). Plasmodia can move as quickly as about one centimeter per hour. Vein-like structures develop within the several centimeter-large giant cells with up to several million-cell nuclei and they function like human muscles. They contract and relax at minute intervals and thereby pump cell cytoplasm back and forth.

One of the most well-known characteristics of slime molds and particularly of Physarum polycephalum is their ability to solve a wide range of problems, from computational geometry to logic; slime mold seems to be, in fact, the “master” of optimization when it comes to connect 2 points, moving from one points to the other, through the shortest path.

With a background in pattern design most interesting to me was to research the slime mold behavior, when starting on a different place within the same pattern.

Would the agar pattern affect the growth pattern of the slime mold? Unfortunately the 3 printed petri dishes were infected during the printing with liquid oatmeal. Only the 4th which had oatmeal flakes as an extra foodsource shows unpredictible growth. My expectations were that around the foodsource growth would be more, but the slime mold has its own way of growing. The timelapse of 10 days give you a better idea of how the infections were growing; sometimes overgrowing, sometimes staying in one place. They gave me beautiful microscopic pictures.

There are a reports on this research of CO-DE-IT , WAAG and Officina Corpuscoli if you want to read more about the BioLogic project.