Growing Bacteria Make Psychedelic Art

Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University (previously at Neatorama) is an artist, alright, but is first a scientist. His fractal bacteria art grew out of serious research in which two strains of bacteria he and his team discovered were tested and measured after being exposed to different environments, which cause them to grow in different ways.

As opposed to letting the bacteria grow in uniform conditions, for scientific purposes, he might let them grow at one temperature in an incubator, take them out, expose them and then put them back in the incubator. He also, at times, added antibiotics and other treatments to the petri dishes in order to incite a physical response. The bacteria, it turned out, communicated with one another in response to these stressors; they secreted lubricants, allowing them to move, and formed elaborate patterns with dots and vine-like branches.

From the first instant he saw a colony, Ben-Jacob called it bacteria art. ”Without knowing anything, you’ll feel the sense that there is drama going on,” he says.

After many experiments, Ben-Jacob began to predict how the patterns would grow under various conditions, and used this knowledge to control the colonies in order to produce art. Read more about how it's done at Smithsonian. Link | Artist's site

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