When we look at a petri dish we would only see the large blobs or sprawling fractal patterns of bacterial growth visible to the naked eye. But, when formed under certain conditions and viewed under a microscope a whole new world opens up. Surprisingly, it is beautiful one
These photos, shot by Fernan Federici, a researcher in the Haseloff Lab at Cambridge University and one of the Synthetic Aesthetics residents, studies how cells grow and develop into more complex shapes and behaviors. Fortunately for us he has also photographed his work using confocal microscopy.
A soil bacteria called Bacillus subtilis formed these fractal colonies. Their growth can be manipulated by the petri dish, what they are fed, and the presence of humidity. Bacteria love these things and cells begin to grow. What they end up looking like is based on the variations on the stimuli above, and the natural rules the bacteria have governing growth.
It is these natural rules on growth that Federici is studying. Working with computer scientist Tim Rudge, they study how the patterns form in their colonies and biofilms. The end goal is to be able to modify the rules that govern growth and design new patterns.
The photos Federici have captured of the bacterial growth tagged with fluorescent proteins show the amazing and complex patterns so beautiful they could grace the walls of any gallery. He has even garnered Wellcome Image Awards for two of his shots in 2011.