Wednesday 28 December 2011

doing thinking with slime mould

Here's what Prof. Andy Adamatzky has to say about Physarum plasmodium doing thinking:
"Plasmodium’s foraging behaviour can be interpreted as computation, when data are represented by spatial configurations of attractants and repellents, and results by structures of protoplasmic network . Plasmodium satisfactory solves many computational problems with natural parallelism, including shortest path, implementation of storage modification machines, Voronoi diagram, logical computing, process algebra... "
 Read all about it in his nice paper "Slime mould computes planar shapes" here.

Well that's very nice for me that somebody has gone to the trouble of doing sums to prove that the thinking of bodies can indeed be thought of as thinking, that Ms. No-brain, No-symbolic language here is doing the math all over my pictures. Maths even.

More to the point for me is the slime mould's responsiveness to things in general. This is a much more complex adventure for the Physarum than the smooth laboratory agar. All the different patterns it is creating here are responses to changes in humidity, available nutrition, light, the textitily of the substrate and other things I don't know about, all at the same time. I'm not at all sure how much it notices or cares about the grease and dirt left by my hands and the ubiquitous cats paws, sneezes, coffee spills and so on. I don't know if it is happy enough on the paintings because when I soak them after they are painted they get a thin coating of the size that the paper is impregnated with. 

I don't know if it has any kind of memory. Or even what I think I might mean by memory here. 

I have no idea why it seems to be happy to forage endlessly across paintings carrying a burden of fluorescent powder with only the occaisional break with a clean oat flake on a bit of damp kitchen roll. But then I can't say I understand why I do, either.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Imaging the brain using old technologies

The mouldy painting from the last post. Anyway it still works fine and it's going in the show. Maybe put this one behind glass though, health & safety and all that...

When good paintings go bad

Another decompositionist work. Unintentional this time. Well it was only a matter of time before this happened.
The pretty greenish white fungus seems to have come on to the painting with the black paint, which I must have left sitting around for a bit too long. Then had a nice incubation as the painting lolled about damply waiting for the slime mould to finish with it. Dunno about the brown sugary-looking one but the white starry fungus belongs to the slime mould alone.

If anyone could identify any of these I would be very happy.

Tuesday 29 November 2011


Physarum polycephalum as facial fungus.

The hard part of collaborating with slime mould is getting it to come off the picture again. You can not make a slime mould do something it doesn't want to. It may choose to sporulate, sclerotinise, ramble about all over the place on the off-chance it finds some more dinner or just give up and die altogether, and the best I can do is hope to create the conditions in which it might decide it is in its own best interests to do the thing I want. Interesting that it hangs around on the paintings so long, given that it will escape exuberantly from every other substrate I have given it at the drop of a hat.

Saturday 26 November 2011

extended cognition

There now, Mrs. Embodiment Personified of the Many 'Eds to the rescue. That picture above is a big one, if you want to ramble around in it.

Friday 25 November 2011

Mrs 'Ed

Here's Mrs. Classical Epistemology 'Ed.  I thought about filling her head with flowers and bunnies and talking deer and horoscopes and crystals and healing and feelings and alternatives but I'm not in the business of reinforcing gender stereotypes and besides what annoys me about those pals of mine who are into all that shit is not that shit in itself – which is all fine by me if it has powers of explanation or narrative delight– but the fact that they are often unreconstructed classical-epistemology-'eds themselves and all that shit is just a decoration over a tired old same old same old story of what we are and what we do and what we think we are doing.

"Oh stop grumbling and give her a bath," I can hear you saying.


Tuesday 22 November 2011

As-yet unravished bride of etc. etc.

Meet Mr. Classical Epistemology 'Ed.  Now drying out for the night before his meeting with Mrs. Embodiment Personified of the Many 'Eds. Do you like his unilinear brain-maze? The black lines follow the lines I made tracing round the actual head of my beloved companion-human. Very uncomfortable. But I want the process of making to be all about bodily interactions. And nice, anyway, when it's finished, that we were all there, on that paper, at those times.

I have to soak the paintings in water so that the slime mould will be happy on them. Then they go and sit damply in a big plastic tub. There is a risk that Mr. 'Ed might just float off. Or go off.

Tomorrow I do my own 'ed. I'd like to do one with two people looking at each other but the under-bed storage box ain't big enough and I got a very funny look when I went into Poundland and asked them for a tupperware big enough for two human heads.

Saturday 19 November 2011

there's no place like chrome

Well my little study has turned out inconclusive, pretty much as expected. The only really interesting thing going on here is that it is the chrome green my many-headed friend has chosen to pick up and run around with.  That was the Serratia marcescens' favourite too, I wonder what the fascination is with Cr2O3  for the microorganisms...


Friday 18 November 2011

Empiricalish, experimentish

What do you call that? Doing a bit of look-and-seeing but not bothering about being systematic about it.  I'm asking the slime mould if they have any particular preferences for watercolour paints.

Monday 14 November 2011

wonderful spam

How I love the interwebs. Here is the wonderful spam comment I got today from who knows who. And who knows what it might mean, except for "Hello, I want your money!" 


Here you provide some information about Immunoglobulin. These provides a complete home care nursing treatments of services. It is a nephropathy genetic testing not to mention benefits of organic food has been harped upon by many nutritionists... "

Sunday 6 November 2011

Might as well stay here...

So once it made a bit of a home for itself on the circles it just wouldn't get off.  (I tried tempting it with oat flakes and changes of humidity but it wasn't having any of it. ) No idea what the whitish stuff on those sporulations is, doesn't look too healthy from here, will have to have a good look at that later.

It seems that what is going on is that the slime mould is laying down a layer of sacrificial self upon which it is then able to form a self-regulating microclimate within itself. That might be bollocks, I'll have to have a good look at that later.

What is fascinating me here is the question of "where/how are we social and where/how are we individual?"  Of course I am looking at the slime mould's being-in-the-world as analogous or similar or illustrative or something- of human being-in-the-world.

I hope it is clear that I am not thinking of this work as "Putting stuff somewhere and seeing how it react to other stuff". I am thinking of it as "Seeing how we all interact."

As I do this work with this marvellous organism I am claiming and feeling a strong kinship with it. (I care about it, want it to be happy, particularly given that I have hijacked it from its 'normal' functioning.)  "Where do we stop being each other, Slimey?" I am asking, a question I also ask of my cat, my partner, my freinds, Heidegger and all that lot, the people I do my cleaning job with, the people I do my cleaning job for, the materials I use, the vehicles I travel in, the doughnuts I eat,  all the individuals and all the institutions in all the world, the murderers, rapists, bankers, Margaret Thatcher...

Actually I am not all that keen on doughnuts, so there is not much of an overlap on the Roberts-Doughnut Identity Venn Diagram.  As for the rest of it, it all has to be examined on a case-by-case basis, and constantly re-examined as new information comes to light.