Thursday, April 27, 2017

Why Does The Slime Mold Hate Us? And Other Awesome Questions

Our friends, the small slime mold cells, arrived in a big box.
The sixth-grader got motivated by the anti-science president and decided to do something really sciency -- test the collective intelligence of a simple organism like the slime mold.

I say collective because this life form can operate independently on the cellular level, then, if need be, unify with the family for elaborate maneuvers.

With this lofty goal in mind we ordered the Slime Mold Starter Kit from a purveyor of biological supplies. We had to wait four days until the box arrived on our doorstep, giving the kid time to name one of the cells Jerry, and the rest of the cells Jerry's friends.

We set up the experiment as such:
kid builds two test areas out of cardboard and parchment paper.
In the first box is a petri dish of agar, a medium to grow cells, with a few oats, the slime mold's favorite food. Once the mold had grown, it would seek out additional oats outside the petri dish. The square pieces of paper have slime mold cells on them.

In the second box, a barrier separates the mold from additional oats. We hope to observe how the mold surmounts the barrier.
Yesterday we set everything up and after two hours were concerned something was wrong as in optimal conditions the mold can grow a centimeter in one hour. It turned out the starter cells had not been set in the agar, but rather just the lid of the petri dish.

Part of the fun would be to make a time-lapse video of the mold doing its thing, so we set up a Gopro to take a frame every 10 seconds. We went to bed last night with excitement brewing. This morning we got up and ran to the garage in pajamas, and...nothing.

No need to go into detail how the kid took things. I told my son that this was real science, in that we had to ask questions and try a new hypothesis, and if he wanted to get a good video he should have stuck with the baking soda and vinegar thing. The new thinking was that the light left on to film retarded growth. So the kid went to school and we turned off the light.

I just checked Jerry and the crew and things are starting. With the kid's input we've added a light misting of water to help things progress.

I will continue to update this story as it progresses.


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