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The Big Bang Slime Mold Experiment

Over the course of four days, more than 500 'Grow Your Own Slime Mold' kits will be distributed to visitors at the 2016 Big Bang Fair... With help from teachers and parents, and following the steps below, we'd like young people to develop experiments to study slime mold behaviour.

For more infomation about this activity, or to find out about other outreach and engagement activities being undertaken by the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre (WISB) and the School of Life Sciences, please contact us wisb at warwick dot ac dot uk.

Step 1: Caring for your Slime

Visit the 'looking after your slime' page for tips on caring for your slime, including how to wake up dried samples (sclerotia).

Step 2: Designing your project

Research is about finding the answer to a question. We've listed some examples below, but you might want to plan your own experiment.

  • If you want a "natural" habitat for your slime, see our guide
  • Which food source is the slime mold attracted to? We know they love porridge, but what about other nutrient sources?
  • Physarum is attracted to chocolate. How could you find out which ingredients it wants?
  • Do they have a favourite food source? Perhaps you could test out different cheese varieties..
  • What substances repel the slime mold?
  • How do factors such as light, sound, heat affect the slime mold?
  • How fast, or how far, can your slime mold travel?
  • Can you design a maze that the slime mold can't solve?

Step 3: Collecting your results

What information do you need to collect to answer your question? For example, you might decide to take photos of your slime at different time points to see how it's moving towards a particular food source. You could even set up a video camera to record your slime.

Step 4: Sharing your results

Tell us what happens.. You can send us photos of your slime, share updates via Twitter (@WISB_SynBioCtre), or send us a report of your project. We'll share all of the results, so that others can learn too.

We may even award prizes for the most innovative projects and wackiest photos!

WISB is a BBSRC/EPSRC funded Synthetic Biology Research Centre. This activity receives funding from the UK Research Councils' (EPSRC/BBSRC) under the Synthetic Biology for Growth programme (grant ref: BB/M017982/1)

 

 

What is a slime mold?

Slime molds are one of the natural world’s best kept secrets.

Ignored by botanists, passed over by zoologists and largely shunned by mycologists, they are neither plant, nor animal nor fungi.

slime_on_log.jpg

Physarum polycephalum (the many-headed slime mold)

It might not look like much but this brainless mass of yellow scum is a single gigantic cell.

Despite having no brain, not even a nerve cell to its name, this curious organism explores its environment, solves mazes and works out road networks all for the simple reward of a bit of porridge!

You can find more about the complex life cycle of the slime mold and other facts