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As much as I like crazy game reinterpretations, I find this one disturbing. It makes me wonder if all those times sitting in traffic in midtown Manhattan I was actually under the control of aliens playing a game of Find the Parking Place.

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/01/15/149225/Play-emPacmanem-emPinballem-and-emPongem-With-a-Paramecium?from=rss via Byline An anonymous reader writes “Science is rarely ever this cool! ‘Physicist Ingmar Riedel-Kruse and his team from Stanford University have done just that by creating versions of classic games that you can navigate by physically controlling living organisms. A game called PAC-mecium is Pacman with a twist: players use a console to change the polarity of an electrical field in a fluid chamber filled with paramecia, which makes the organisms move in different directions. A camera sends real-time images to a computer, where they are superimposed onto a game board (see video above). By looking at the screen, a player can guide the paramecia to eat virtual yeast cells and make them avoid Pacman-like fish. A microprocessor tracks the movement of the organisms to keep score.’ Also available are versions of Pinball, Pong, and soccer.”

Just when you thought slime molds, which alternate between individual and collective organisms, couldn’t get any weirder.

If amoebas can grow their own food, you have even less of an excuse for not doing so yourself. And no, Farmville doesn’t count.

Slime Molds Are Earth’s Smallest, Oldest Farmers http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/7UzmakhSZzY/ via Byline Colonies of a bizarre microbial goo have been found practicing agriculture at a scale tinier than any seen before….

When food is short, hundreds of thousands of amoebas come together, fusing into a single entity. It may crawl off as a slug in search of richer pastures, then form a stalk topped by a “fruiting body” that bursts to disperse a few lucky amoebas-turned-spores. Or it may form the stalk right away, without crawling.

It’s been thought that slime molds simply scavenge, eating bacteria they like and oozing out the rest. In laboratories, researchers “cure” slime molds of their bacteria by allowing them to purge themselves on Petri dishes. But Brock, who studies how slime-mold cells communicate and self-organize, kept finding bacteria in the fruiting bodies of some slime molds and not others….

They found that some strains didn’t gorge themselves and “lick the plate clean” of bacteria, but instead saved some inside of the colony. They were farmers, and fared better in some soils than their nonfarming counterparts.

From the original article:

“The behavior falls short of the kind of ‘farming’ that more advanced animals do; ants, for example, nurture a single fungus species that no longer exists in the wild. But the idea that an amoeba that spends much of its life as a single-celled organism could hold short of consuming a food supply before decamping is an astonishing one. More than just a snack for the journey of dispersal, the idea is that the bacteria that travel with the spores can ‘seed’ a new bacterial colony, and thus a food source in case the new locale should be lacking in bacteria.”

For centuries, the Chinese have been treating disease as an imbalance in the body. The latest research into body-as-ecosystem reminds us that if bacteria outnumber native cells in the human body by 10 to 1, we’d better figure out how to get along with all those neighbors living under our skin.

http://science.slashdot.org/story/10/10/19/0126252/The-Effect-of-Internal-Bacteria-On-the-Human-Body?from=rss

meckdevil writes with this excerpt from the Miller-McCune magazine: “In a series of recent findings, researchers describe bacteria that communicate in sophisticated ways, take concerted action, influence human physiology, alter human thinking, bioengineer the environment and control their own evolution. … The abilities of bacteria are interesting to understand in their own right, and knowing how bacteria function in the biosphere may lead to new sources of energy or ways to degrade toxic chemicals, for example. But emerging evidence on the role of bacteria in human physiology brings the wonder and promise — and the hazards of misunderstanding them — up close and personal. … Because in a very real sense, bacteria are us. Recent research has shown that gut microbes control or influence nutrient supply to the human host, the development of mature intestinal cells and blood vessels, the stimulation and maturation of the immune system, and blood levels of lipids such as cholesterol. They are, therefore, intimately involved in the bodily functions that tend to be out of kilter in modern society: metabolism, cardiovascular processes and defense against disease. Many researchers are coming to view such diseases as manifestations of imbalance in the ecology of the microbes inhabiting the human body. If further evidence bears this out, medicine is about to undergo a profound paradigm shift, and medical treatment could regularly involve kindness to microbes.”

Meanwhile scientists are beginning to look at bacteria as the appropriate model for complex human behavior rather than the artificial intelligence algorithms of game theory. Perhaps Jeremy Rifkin was right: the 20th century may have culminated in the computer, but the 21st century will focus on cytoplasm over silicon.

http://science.slashdot.org/story/10/10/12/1759234/Gambling-On-Bacteria

An anonymous reader writes “When it comes to gambling, many people rely on game theory, a branch of applied mathematics that attempts to measure the choices of others to inform their own decisions. It’s used in economics, politics, medicine — and, of course, Las Vegas. But recent findings from a Tel Aviv University researcher suggest that we may put ourselves on the winning side if we look to bacteria instead. According to Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, current game theory can’t account for bacteria’s natural decision-making abilities — it’s just too simplistic. Understanding bacteria’s reactions to stressful and hazardous conditions may improve decision-making processes in any human arena from everyday life to political elections.”

http://rss.slashdot.org/~r/Slashdot/slashdot/~3/w6XHfCE-6l0/Microbes-That-Keep-Us-Healthy-Starting-To-Die-Off

Scientific American: “The human body has some 10 trillion human cells—but 10 times that number of microbial cells. So what happens when such an important part of our bodies goes missing? With rapid changes in sanitation, medicine and lifestyle in the past century, some of these indigenous species are facing decline, displacement and possibly even extinction. In many of the world’s larger ecosystems, scientists can predict what might happen when one of the central species is lost, but in the human microbial environment—which is still largely uncharacterized—most of these rapid changes are not yet understood.

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