Ideas

Brainiac

Innovation of the Week: The slime mold think tank

brainiac -- Plasmodial slime mold. (Hampshire College)
Hampshire College
Plasmodial slime mold.

What is it? Plasmodial slime mold think tank

Innovator Jonathon Keats

What were they thinking? Keats, a San Francisco-based experimental philosopher and conceptual artist, has made pornography for plants, genetically engineered God in a laboratory, and copyrighted his own mind.

Advertisement

Now, in an exhibit at Hampshire College, he is asking plasmodial slime molds — renowned for their ability to network and navigate complex systems — to sound off on confounding issues of our day from immigration to marijuana legalization.

Get Arguable in your inbox:
Jeff Jacoby on everything from politics to pet peeves to the passions of the day.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Did it work? An effort to study immigration policy divided petri dishes in half, placing slime mold populations on either side.

In one dish, the populations were divided by an impenetrable wall. In another, there were no obstructions. The slime molds in the barrier-free petri dish thrived in the open border zone, suggesting a lax immigration policy may be best.

Keats has written letters to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and the United Nations. No word, yet, on any policy changes. In a deadpan, Keats tells the Globe that he hopes the slime molds will be in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize.