The Library of Obscure Wonders

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Tag: curious contraption

Moon Poo, Wolf Milk, Tree Hair And other types of Slime

slime moulds

An illustration of slime moulds

“There is only one rule to life” said my biology teacher on one of his more whimsical days “for every rule you find you can always find something that breaks it”.

Ignoring the obvious contradiction he preceded to educate us in a creature that was not animal or plant, not multi-cellular or single cellular, but very possibly alien.

In 1973 in Dallas, Texas, firefighters were called out because a strange yellow blob was attacking a telephone pole. The firefighters tried to subdue it with hoses, but the creature grew bigger and climbed up the pole. Locals feared an alien invasion. Yellow blobs had recently been appearing on their lawns and now this giant blob was seemingly eating the telephone pole. Luckily, a local university scientist identified the oozing slime as F. septica. a harmless slime mould.

It is unusual for slime moulds to be this large, they are usually tiny, very slimy and not a mould. Having been banished from the fungi class in recent history for having very little relation to a fungi, they now have their very own kingdom, yet still perplex scientists as to where exactly they fit in. They come in many different colours – yellow, pink, white, green, brown, black – and have many different common names such as Tree Hair, Bubble Gum, Chocolate tubes, Wolf Milk , Dog Vomit and Caca de Luna (Moon Poo) which I’m informed is delicious when fried.

There are two main types of Slime Mold, the Plasmordial – basically one great big cell with many nuclei – and the Cellular – these spend most of their life as single celled amoeba but when food gets short a chemical signal is released and they come together to form “slugs”, with head part, body and tale, that go wondering off to find somewhere better.

At some point they then turn into fruiting bodies, with some of them being sacrificed in order to do this. Their life cycle intrigues scientists for the questions it raises about altruism.

A fairly recent Slime Mould discovery is that although they don’t have a brain, or anything even approaching, they do use a type of external memory. Hansel and Gretal style. Build a small maze in a petri dish, on one side of the maze put your Slime Mould, on the other put a delicious food supply. The Slime mould will work its way round the maze leaving behind a slime trail so it knows where it has been before and doesn’t return there.

Life Cycle of Slime Mold

Life-cycle of a Slime Mould

Whats more these things are all around, everyday, lurking in the corners of your life, in the garden, in the town, maybe in your house. So with their ability to exist as both single and multi-celluar organisms, their altruism,  being able to find their way through mazes, and most of all their ability to still completely baffle humans, slime moulds are fantastic!  (And are the future)

Bird Radio

A modern one man band.

He’s a very busy man. We are only just getting him to perform with us on Wednesday before he and Chiara Ambrosio fly off to New York together to do a tour of the States the next day.

His music is both medieval and contemporary, etherial and earthy. I envy the way he manages to coordinate so many things live on stage in a song, playing a red suitcase as a drum, operating a loop pedal, playing flute, singing. Some looped music can become quite hypnotic, but Bird Radio manages to be very much there, and engaged with the audience.

His persona is friendly and draws the audience into his world where nursery rhyme and original material mix in surprising ways.

In this video (by Chiara) of the song Who Killed Cock Robin he looks quite fierce and aggressive, but really his stage persona is very loveable.

SMOO – Filthy and loveable

A dirty word that I’m not supposed to say or (and)  something cuddly and loveable like a teddy bear – this is some of what the Urban Dictionary tells me about the word SMOO. It is also the name of the duo combining Ivor Kallin and John Bisset and it suits them well. I’m told they’re like a Scottish version of Derek and Clive with guitar (but not as we know it), and  a little bit of the Goons thrown in. I never listened to Derek and Clive or the Goons but I know I thought SMOO were hilarious! Gifted, filthy, loveable and telepathic.

They’re performing at the Library’s Curious Contraption night Downstairs at the Vortex this Wednesday (7thNov) for free. Here is a video John sent me just to confuse you, it is not much like what I saw them do at Klinker, but its good too.

A Curious Contraption

Flyer for a gig. A fish trapped in a time Machine.The Library is putting on an event!  Storytelling, music, poetry, film. Its called Mr Slaptail’s Curious Contraption (after a children’s book about a group of river animals that build a scientific contraption). The Librarian will be there collecting ghost stories, the Rude Mechanicals will be conjuring up monsters, Bitten by a Monkey will be chanting disturbing monk-like improvisations, Bird Radio shall be the modern day one man band he is, and Miss Roberts shall be loving and abusing musicians and audience alike. It will be held on 7th Nov at the Vortex Downstairs, Gillet SquareLondon.

Thought I’d show a taster of some of the exhibits on here. First the beautiful films of Chiara Ambrosio.