The “blob”, scientifically named Physarum polycephalum, is a unicellular species of myxomycete. This organism takes different forms depending on the environmental conditions and its life cycle. For example, without water and food, it takes the form of a sclerotia, a dry and compact mass capable of surviving in extreme conditions. It is precisely in this form that Hypatia has received some «blobs» for its mission to the MDRS! Check the HypaBlob instagram account to follow the progress of the experiments.
Audrey Dussutour is a biologist and the research director of the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS). Her work aims to understand how distributed systems –whether colonies of ants or single-celled organisms– interact with their environment. With more than fifteen years of research on «blobs», Audrey Dussutour is one of the world’s specialists in this organism. Her team showed that the “blob” was able to learn even though it was an organism without a nervous system, a discovery that completely changed the way we understand single-celled organisms and, in particular, the notion of intelligence.
In addition, since the beginning of her professional career, Audrey has contributed to the dissemination of her studies with numerous talks, workshops and publications. In 2021, during the Alpha mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) she collaborated with the National Center for Space Studies (CNES) to conduct an experiment with a “blob” –-called LU– in weightlessness aboard the International Space Station (ISS). In parallel, 5.000 school centers carried out the same experiment on Earth to evaluate the effects of gravity on this organism. The “blobs” that the Hypatia I crew will take to “Mars” are clones of LU, the «blob» that traveled to the ISS!
Hypatia I expresses its gratitude to the CNRS and to Audrey Dussutour for providing the «blob» samples, sharing their expertise, and offering a unique opportunity to get an in-depth experience on their research.