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Colonies of Growing Bacteria Make Psychedelic Art

In the early 1990s, Eshel Ben-Jacob, a biological physicist at Tel Aviv University, and his colleagues discovered two new species of bacteria—Paenibacillus dendritiformis and Paenibacillus vortex. Both strains of soil bacteria, the species live near the roots of plants.

Each bacterium is only a few microns in size, and they divide every 20 minutes, ultimately forming large colonies consisting of billions of microorganisms. “The entire colony can be thought of as a big brain, a super brain, that receives signals, processes information and then makes decisions about where to send bacteria and where to continue to expand,” says Ben-Jacob.

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