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Bio artist Simon Park grows microbial masterpieces from contaminated bacteria food

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Spontaneous Generations
Spontaneous Generations

If you've ever looked at a bacterial colony up close, you know there's a certain beauty to be found in the folds of the unseen microscopic life that covers nearly everything on the planet. Self-professed "poet scientist" Simon Park utilizes those ubiquitous lifeforms to great effect, exposing microbe media (the "food" that microbiologists use to grow bacterial cultures) to grow spontaneously generated compositions literally from thin air.

It's a fairly simple process with a fair amount of preparation: as soon as the sterile food is exposed, microbes in the air begin to contaminate in unpredictable patterns. The result is a Kafkaesque mix of mutating textures and colors, generated from millions of different air spora. It's not known why these patterns emerge as microbial colonies grow, but microbiologists believe it has to do with competition between different organisms for access to oxygen and food.

The yellow accents seen throughout are the work of the slime mould Physarum polycephalum, which has previously shown an uncanny knack for growing its way out of mazes, or into the shape of the Tokyo rail system. Park has tried his hand at allowing the slime to grow along a variety of surfaces and objects, with some interesting results.

Park has more photos of his experiments posted to his website, and has also included an instructional guide that lays out the steps necessary to homebrew a fresh batch of media and create microbial compositions of your own, no lab required.