November 28, 2022

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Warsaw.  Who is better at regulating traffic at intersections, road workers or... slime makers?

Warsaw. Who is better at regulating traffic at intersections, road workers or… slime makers?

They love oatmeal and change their color depending on the “mood”. Besides, they can solve math problems, design computer networks, and remove traffic jams. Slime molds – organisms from the boundary between bacteria and fungi – will be present at the Przymany Festival, where they will encounter … traffic regulation at Warsaw intersections. Should they be afraid in ZDM?

They are bewildering creatures. – They use the dam to navigate – says Stanislaw Obuziak, head of the biological laboratory at the Copernicus Science Center. – It is a multicellular structure created by slime mold. It moves to a food source or to areas with higher humidity. At the same time, he explains, he avoids places where there are toxic substances or those that can harm the mucus.

The dam is used by slime mold to move aroundTomasz Zieliński / tvnwarszawa.pl

The sticky mold he gave us is moving in the dishes. – Here I have a box in which I put paper towels and slime boards. He walks around these panels and creates paths. If he runs out of food, he runs away very quickly – he says.

The slime mold is able to “roll out” even from a closed container, using the narrow space between the lid and the bottom. – If we have high humidity in the room, she can even walk on the walls in search of other sources of food – confirms Łoboziak.

Slime mold can walk on walls

Slime mold can walk on wallsTomasz Zieliński / tvnwarszawa.pl

He loves oatmeal

The person who lives in the Copernicus Science Center eats … porridge. For this purpose, it also uses caulking, to produce enzymes that break down flakes into simpler substances. Then he uses them to grow. As the scientist explains, sticky mold has a picky palate – it has oat flakes he loves and oats he doesn’t. And when it runs out, it feeds on other living things.

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Feeding slime mold at the Copernicus Science Center

Feeding slime mold at the Copernicus Science CenterTomasz Zieliński / tvnwarszawa.pl

The speed of the sticky mold depends on its temperament. It moves at a rate of several centimeters per hour, depending on conditions. He does not like light, so he also moves where there is shadow – says Łoboziak.

Unfortunately, sticky mold is too slow to be noticed right away – time-lapse shots are best for that.

It will help in subway planning

Warsaw scientists want to check if sticky mold – guided by its needs – will find better connections from planners and engineers. For this purpose, they will put a large board on the map with the current and planned lines and stations. – In places where there are metro stations or planned variants, we will put individual pieces of oatmeal. He will begin to move towards them, doing it in the most optimal way, that is, taking the shortest path. After some time, it will be possible to see reinforced contact methods through which all materials will be transferred to the lock. These tracks are the best and are visible in the form of large yellow stripes – explains Łoboziak.

The slime template will draw the metro line

The slime template will draw the metro lineTomasz Zieliński / tvnwarszawa.pl

But the slime mold can also help create road networks, connection routes, and intersections. So it can tell you how to solve crowded street problems. When he has to, he can even get out of the maze. – In our communication experiment, we used slime molds, because it is an interesting and non-standard tool taken from the natural world. We can see that these organisms can help us develop cities and transportation networks – the scientist argues.

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As he adds, slime molds are also good at…math. It can solve simple puzzles and can be used to create models of computer networks. The scientist adds that thanks to the slime molds, it is possible what will happen if this network is attacked. A lot of research is needed to discover the networks you create, but as you can see, there are many uses for slime molds – confirms Łoboziak.

A small organism, but a complex being

The study of slime molds is still very poor. It is known that these organisms are adjacent to fungi and bacteria. – In fact, they should create a separate kingdom of living beings on our planet. Mucus has a cellular form, so it is not known which cell nucleus is responsible for controlling the mucosa, or which nucleus makes the decision – describes Łoboziak.

Scientists also have a hard time figuring out what happens when two slime molds of the same type meet. – They connect the lock and the question is it two separate organisms, is it one organism?

There are about ten types of slime molds in Poland. They live mainly in temperate climates. The ones at the Copernicus Science Center have the shape of yellow threads, but you can also find slime mold in the form of yellow foam, similar to a sponge. – We can meet slime molds now, in the fall. However, we must be patient and look very down, at the forest floor or at the branches – says Stanislaw. He adds that sticky mold also has a characteristic smell of rotting wood and can often be found on rotting tree trunks.

Almost like a chameleon

– I have noticed that when the slime mold has a lot of food and is happy, it turns bright yellow. When it lacks this food and it lacks oatmeal, it becomes more orange – Łoboziak admits. As can be seen from this form of slime molds, it is inactive, but it can be revived by adding a little water to the structure on which it is located.

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On the other hand, during very poor conditions, sticky mold forms spores in the form of black balls. They can form when the weather changes from humid to very sunny. In nature, the sporophyte slime mold will transform itself into its active form.

To survive, mucilage forms germs

To survive, mucilage forms germsTomasz Zieliński / tvnwarszawa.pl

luzowiec will perform at the festival

Slime molds were first used in Warsaw. We pledged to conduct this experiment before the Przymany festival for the city, and I hope it will be an inspiring experience so that we can draw conclusions and mold will help us solve the problems of cities, especially traffic jams in Warsaw. Or planning new metro lines – emphasizes Stanisław Łoboziak.

The Prazimani Festival is organized every year by the Copernicus Science Center and will run from 7-9 October. You will be able to see the slime mold roaming throughout the festival. You’ll travel both in 2D maps that show the Warsaw metro and in 3D on which you’ll move between buildings.

The Prazimani Festival is an event that includes many workshops, lectures, exhibitions, discussions as well as films and concerts. During them, the topic of the future of cities will be discussed. Will the streets be lit up with glowing moss and mushroom furnishings? Or maybe you grow vegetables and herbs in apartments, and buildings float on water? – During this year’s Transformation Festival at the Copernican Science Center, we will try to cultivate good ideas and learn about ideas that have already emerged – said Katarzina Novica, Press Spokesperson for the Copernican Science Center.

Stanisław Shuboziak and Dr. Maria Dubinska are making maps of Warsaw where the slime mold will navigateCopernican Science Center

Main image source: Tomasz Zieliński / tvnwarszawa.pl