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Nobody Wins When Slime Mold Invades the Uncanny Valley

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Theoretically, a perfect robot face would look normal. But until we reach utter perfection, everything that falls even slightly short is horrifying. Take, for instance, this robot visage powered by ravenously hungry slime mold. It's surprisingly functional, and unsurprisingly nightmarish.

Slime mold is strange. It has neither a brain, nor a nervous system, yet it is exceedingly skilled at finding the shortest distance to food and running away from light. Ella Gale, who studies unconventional computing at the University of the West of England in Bristol, whipped up an experiment to explore the mold's strange intelligence, and then hooked up a nightmare face to it because why not?


Gale started by putting a whole bunch of slime mold over a series of electrodes, and then started stimulating it by giving it food and chasing it around with light; slime mold doesn't like light. Then, she rigged up the electrodes to make sound as the slime "ran" over them. Not yet pleased, she categorized the sound of slime running toward food as "positive" and the sound of it fleeing light as "negative" and gave the sounds "arousal" scores based on how loud they were. All this, she fed into the robot face to complete her unsettling tableau.

As if the uncanny faces weren't enough, and the involvement of slime molds enough on top of that, the soundtrack of atonal nonsense really pushes this experiment into true terror territory. What's the point? To maybe learn a little more about how a mass of brainless matter like slime mold actually manages to function a like a brain. The results? We're too skeeved out to ask. [New Scientist via Digg]