Microbial Art

Making art in a petri dish.

via Smithsonian

Scientists began to use agar for experiments as a way to see how microorganisms—which were previously grown on solid food—developed. Agar powder is mixed with sterilized water and nutrients in a petri dish to create a transparent, semi-solid substance. Scientists incorporate microorganisms, like fungi and bacteria, to the mixture and watch them develop in the gel under a microscope.

Despite its growing popularity over the past five years, microbial art isn’t a recent fad. Alexander Fleming, who discovered the antibiotic properties of penicillin on an agar plate in 1928, created images using live organisms. Yet, this genre of scientific art didn’t gather much attention from researchers until the last decade, when the American Society of Microbiology brought agar art into the spotlight in 2015 with an annual contest.

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