Moldy News

A plasmodium of slime mold may not be everyone’s idea of a pet. It’s not cute, beautiful or cuddly, nor does it hang on your every word. But you can teach it to do tricks. Also, and this is greatly in its favor, it is cheap to feed and doesn’t tear up the furniture if you go out for the day and leave it at home.

Geek note: A plasmodium is a huge single cell with multiple nuclei, which will grow towards a food source.  

A pet that does tricks is high up on our list of  “must haves” that we all consult frequently when we take a moment away from the rat race. What tricks could my personal plasmodium do? Well you can use it as a biological computer, maybe even let it help with your kid’s hard math problem. You can get more details in the new paper by Adamatzky of the U of WOE (1) for ideas for tricks to impress your friends.

What attracted my attention were its feeding habits, not its ability to calculate optimal graphs or find its way through mazes, amazing though that may be. Being brought up on a Spartan diet of rolled oats with an occasional dollop of honey and completely eschewing salt, I was surprised to read that it had an addiction to sedatives.

Its drug of choice was Glaxo-Smith-Kline’s ‘Nytol’, which has a content high in valerian root and hop leaves. If this fix isn’t available, it will sniff out Kalms Sleep from G.R.Lane. It would mainline on valerian root if it got the chance, but this isn’t normally available on the High Streets in uncut form.

It can be tempted with passionflower, although wild lettuce and vervain will do at a push, but it gets a bit sniffy if offered gentian, however, it will accept it in the end.

In an experiment to introduce a new recreational drug to the slime mold, nepetalactone was offered. This comes from catnip and produces a psychosexual response in cats when sniffed (2). It doesn’t do the same for us people though, it just sends us to sleep like the valerian root and it positively repels cockroaches. How did the slime mold plasmodium respond? It was okay, but not as good as the valerian.


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