Physarum UK

physarum-big.jpg (628 KB)

Image created as a logo for Artificial Life XI: The Eleventh International Conference on the Simulation and Synthesis of Living Systems (

From the introduction to the Proceedings:

“We chose to promote the conference with an image that is in some sense itself an example of artificial life: a real organism artificially encouraged to adopt the shape of the host country (plus Ireland). The cover of this proceedings volume features a photograph of a single-cell creature, the slime mould Physarum polycephalum, that was grown over a period of between twelve and twenty-four hours in a petri dish. While we have tidied the image up a little, it is essentially undoctored. The slime mould was grown by Soichiro Tsuda, and photographed by Soichiro, Nic Geard and Seth Bullock. The initial idea was proposed by Richard Watson during a particularly creative lunch.

In order to achieve the shot, we used a piece of acetate with an appropriately shaped hole as a template, and grew the slime mould across this area. The network of microtubules that you can see forms spontaneously as the creature grows, and reflects the self-organised system of nutrient transport that the slime mould uses. Since Physarum does not enjoy acetate as a habitat, it is relatively easy to remove the template and leave behind the organism, which has adapted to the niche it was offered by creating a living map of the the United Kingdom (and Ireland).”

This post was submitted by Nicholas Geard.

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