Arts + Design

What is this pretty yellow goo? Delicious slime mold, of course

Jun 20, 2014 /

Heather Barnett makes art from physarum polycephalum, a eukaryotic microorganism that lives in cool, moist areas. As part of a project on the semi-intelligent slime mold, Barnett captures its behavior “in a game of creative control and authorship,” creating a timelapse film of its growth.

In these images, she’s replicated a maze from a 2000 experiment by Toshiyuki Nakagaki that showed how the organism seeks out food sources. The slime mold had already grown into a network throughout the maze, but when Nakagaki and his team at Hokkaido University added agar to two different places within, it withdrew from the empty corners and found the shortest path between the two points of nutrition, spreading into a beautiful web that connected them.

Barnett is speaking at the TEDSalon in Berlin in June 2014.