14:22 GMT +321 February 2019
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    Mikroskopisk Pacman

    Norwegian Scientists Create Bacterial Pac-Man Using Microorganisms

    © Photo: YouTube/Høgskolen i Sørøst-Norge
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    In order to better understand how the relationship between prey and predator microorganisms work, Norwegian scientists have designed a cool Pac-Man simulation that is both fun and promotes further research on the subject.

    In a strictly scientific simulation of the cult 80s computer game, carried out by the University College of Southeast Norway, scientists created a micro-version of the legendary Pac-Man maze- with passageways less than a millimeter in diameter — and filled with microorganisms floating around in a nutrient-laden liquid.

    The unicellular species euglena and ciliates play the roles of Pac-Man, whereas multicellular rotifers act as "Ghosts," who prey on Pac-Man. The aim of the study was to find out how euglena react to life-or-death situations when chased by rotifers in a three-dimensional area. In nature, all of the microorganisms are found in large numbers in fresh and salt water; many live in quiet inland waters where their presence is marked by green and red layers.

    Using micro scenography, filmmaker Adam Bartley illuminated the maze in the neon colors familiar from the original edition of Pac-Man and captured the seeming gameplay between the euglena and the rotifers on film to make it more accessible to the public.

    According to project leader Professor Erik Andrew Johannessen at the Department of Micro and Nano System Technology, the crew had a blast, and the research nonetheless yielded serious scientific results.

    ​"We did this because we wanted to raise awareness in the field. The main purpose of the project is to show how micro and nano system technology may be used to create a three-dimensional environment that can provide for more natural single- and multi-celled animal behavior under the microscope for further study," Johannesen explained.

    According to Johannessen, scientists and pharmacists have traditionally cultivated cells and microorganisms in so-called "Petri dishes," which form an artificial two-dimensional environment. In nature, microorganisms have to deal with an "ingenious system of canals and structures," so by introducing a three-dimensional maze, the scientists force the microorganisms to interact with their environment and behave in a more natural way.

    By the scientists' own admission, the Pac-Man project not only helped the Norwegian team with their research, but also bridged their findings with the gaming and entertainment industry in order to present the research in a way normal people can understand. At present, researchers are looking forward to integrating other games in their work.

    microscope, chemistry, biology, Scandinavia, Norway
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