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Adaptive bacteria makes psychedelic art worthy of The Grateful Dead

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Bacteria Art
Bacteria Art

A professor at Tel Aviv University is studying bacteria to move the world of science forward, but he's creating some breathtaking art as well. As FastCo.Design explains, Professor Eshel Ben-Jacob decided to study the adaptive behavior of wild bacteria strains some 20 years ago. The idea was to put bacteria in challenging environments, and see how a colony would respond. Watching the colony adapt in a collaborative fashion led to a number of different discoveries, including that different kinds of bacteria — or phenotypes — exist within a given colony to perform specific tasks, much like humans and animals have cells with specific functions.

The beauty comes into play when Ben-Jacob takes these adaptive bacteria colonies, dyes them with a blue stain, and photographs them. He adds additional color and shading to create glorious, mind-bending images that call to mind everything from the mathematical beauty of fractals to the psychedelic concert posters that sprung up in San Francisco's 1960s music scene. "When I do it as art, I have the freedom to come up with all kinds of conditions without having to worry about another scientist needing to verify my work," Ben-Jacob tells FastCo.Design. "But the art can help inspire the science, and vice versa." If you're interested in science or beauty, you'll find the full collection fascinating.