MAKING_LIFE 2014 - 2015

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Protocells - practical
posted by sarah on 16 March 2016

A protocell (or protobiont) is (according to Wikipedia) "a self-organized, endogenously ordered, spherical collection of lipids proposed as a stepping-stone to the origin of life. A central question in evolution is how simple protocells first arose and began the competitive process that drove the evolution of life. Although a functional protocell has not yet been achieved in a laboratory setting, the goal to understand the process appears well within reach." We saw videos about work by techno-fetishist futurists such as Rachel Armstrong and Philip Beesley which show how they have worked with them, and how they see them as a key to artificial cell construction.
Next we play. Using a range of chemicals including ink, water, sodium chloride, gelatin, canola oil, olive oil, mineral oil, hemp oil, washing soda and baking powder we carefully pipette small amounts of each into petri dishes to observe whether or not 'cell like' persistent bubbles would form.
For inspiration and entertainment we had a VJ feeding us videos of chemical reactions and theories of the origins of life. We all interpret these in the best way we see fit.
Some interesting patterns, colours and tensions in interactions appear in the petri dishes. But do we actually generate membranes? What are we really making here?