For a CNRS experiment, a Carcassonnaise embarks on blob creation

Like 13,800 others in France, Aude volunteered to participate in the “Research behind the bubble”. Launched by CNRS, this participatory experiment aims to see the effects of global warming on the bubble. Neither animal nor plant, this ancient organism has been studied since 2008 by Dr. Audrey Dussutour, who leads the project.

A month ago, a new living being took up residence in Aude. Already the owner of two dogs and four cats, the forty in fact decided to adopt a blob. With a viscous yellow appearance, Physarum polycephalum is not an animal, nor a plant, nor a fungus. Nor is it aggressive as Ludwig Von’s song 88 or the 1988 horror film from which its nickname comes from suggests.

It is a species of myxomycete, from the kingdom of amoebozoa“, says Dr. Audrey Dussutour. A term very little known to the general public “since only the plant, animal and fungal kingdoms are taught in school“, explains the ethologist at the National Research Center (CNRS). “Dr Drey”, a specialist in this unicellular living being, is piloting the project “Behind the bubble, research”, in which 13,800 people across France participate.

Ten facts about the bubble to shine in society

  • he has no brain
  • It is made up of a single cell but has multiple nuclei
  • He is older than dinosaurs
  • he is almost immortal
  • Can double in size in 24 hours
  • There are not two but 720 different genders on the blob
  • He can clone himself
  • he doesn’t like the light
  • he loves oatmeal
  • His nickname comes from a 1988 horror movie

Among them, Aude, who lives in Carcassonne. This caregiver discovered the participatory experience of CNRS”by chance“.”I had seen videos on YouTube that talked about it, I said to myself why not.” After filling out an application dossier, she received her blob a month ago, in a plain envelope, along with a file of about forty pages, including several protocols.

The “Growth” experiment should allow you to observe the speed at which the blob grows.
Independent – NATHALIE AMEN VALS

With experience

With the “Exploration” experiment, apprentice researchers study the way the bubble moves to feed.
The Independent – NATHALIE AMEN VALS

Placed under a heat lamp, the bubble is subjected to strong temperature variations, simulating global warming.

Placed under a heat lamp, the bubble is subjected to strong temperature variations, simulating global warming.
The Independent – NATHALIE AMEN VALS

There’s an experiment called Exploration where you put some oatmeal in it and let the bubble move around to find your food. It’s super fast, it’s impressive“, explains Aude. Another, called “Growth”, consists of feeding the bubble to observe its growth abilities. “It should also be placed under a heat lamp.“, notes Aude. Helped by these budding scientists, Audrey Dussutour hopes to observe the effects of global warming on this inhabitant of our undergrowth.

We tried to study sudden changes in temperature, going from 17 to 28°C, because living beings have more difficulty adapting to them.“, notes the researcher from the Center for Research on Animal Cognition at CNRS. A large-scale experiment that she could not have carried out alone.”We had already carried out an experiment with the blob, involving Thomas Pesquet and 5,000 classes across France“, notes the ethologist. A success that led the CNRS to broaden the field of participants.”Today we have Ehpad, a detention center, a rehabilitation service for the brain injured who participate. But also researchers with their children, grandparents and grandchildren.

In addition to the CNRS experiments, Aude does her own experiments, like this Lego maze

In addition to the CNRS experiments, Aude does her own experiments, like this Lego maze
The Independent – NATHALIE AMEN VALS

At the beginning of the experiment, Aude had to answer very specific questions about how she would increase her bubble.

At the beginning of the experiment, Aude had to answer very specific questions about how she would increase her bubble.
The Independent – NATHALIE AMEN VALS

Because in addition to studying the consequences of one of the greatest scourges of our time, “Behind the bubble, research” also aims to take the general public behind the scenes of a laboratory. Every day at 6:30, Aude puts the oats in the Petri dishes where the blob is, before storing them in a very specific order in shoeboxes. She must also take pictures, indicating the time, day and codename of the blob, on a black background with a double decimeter in reference. “It’s hard to follow everything, I often forget certain instructions“, recognizes Carcassonnaise, which shares the experience in its networks.

A margin of error that Audrey Dussutour predicted in her calculations. So initially 15,000 people volunteered. Today, 1,200 have dropped out of the experiment. “It also allows people to understand how demanding scientific research is in terms of rigor.“A way for her to allow the general public to appropriate scientific codes and form their own opinion.”They will better understand what happens when certain research is criticized, such as chloroquine.“, underlines the scientist. She will analyze the results during the summer and winter of 2022, with a view to a publication where the 15,000 participants will be mentioned.

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Everyone can keep their blob, we also want people to have fun, in addition to scientific rigor“, indicates Dr. Dussutour. Aude, she’s already started. She cut a blob, and placed the new individual in a Lego maze.”I thought he’d find his way, but in fact he went straight under the bricks“, she says, amazed, proof that this single yellow cell is really endowed with intelligence.

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