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Scientist plays Pacman with living organisms.

by The Register:

Topflight boffins in America have well and truly gasted the world’s flabber by building a sort of miniaturised live arena version of Pac-Man, in which players guide minuscule single-celled organisms to gobble up little balls.

The game of 'Pac-mecium' being played. Credit: L A Cicero, Stanford University News Service

The game, dubbed PAC-mecium (the organisms which chase around gobbling balls are paramecia) is the brainchild of Stanford uni bioengineering prof Ingmar Riedel-Kruse.

Riedel-Kruse and his Stanford colleagues set up the tiny, living Pac-Man game by placing paramecia in a small fluid chamber, which is viewed through a microscope by a camera – which then relays images to the video game screen. The player controls the paramecium using a normal game controller which is hooked up to equipment that “controls the polarity of a mild electrical field applied across the fluid chamber, which influences the direction the paramecia move”. Score is kept by a computer tracking the paramecia on the video.

The game-fancying boffins have also set up live versions of other games, dubbed “POND PONG”, “Ciliaball” and “Biotic Pinball”. In Biotic Pinball, the paramecia play the part of rolling balls and the paddles are supplied by squirting “occasional whiffs of a chemical into the fluid, causing the paramecia to swim in one direction or another”.

In any case, Riedel-Kruse says, his games are about more than mere enjoyment.

We would argue that modern biotechnology will influence our life at an accelerating pace, most prominently in the personal biomedical choices that we will be faced with more and more often,” Riedel-Kruse said. “Therefore everyone should have sufficient knowledge about the basics of biomedicine and biotechnology. Biotic games could promote that.”

The Register

Wait, is science becoming… fun?

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