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Play Pacman, Pinball, and Pong With a Paramecium

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the why-I-don't-bathe dept.

Science 88

An anonymous reader writes "Science is rarely ever this cool! 'Physicist Ingmar Riedel-Kruse and his team from Stanford University have done just that by creating versions of classic games that you can navigate by physically controlling living organisms. A game called PAC-mecium is Pacman with a twist: players use a console to change the polarity of an electrical field in a fluid chamber filled with paramecia, which makes the organisms move in different directions. A camera sends real-time images to a computer, where they are superimposed onto a game board (see video above). By looking at the screen, a player can guide the paramecia to eat virtual yeast cells and make them avoid Pacman-like fish. A microprocessor tracks the movement of the organisms to keep score.' Also available are versions of Pinball, Pong, and soccer."

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88 comments

Just a game (5, Insightful)

ian_from_brisbane (596121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889642)

Some higher species might be doing the same thing with us humans.

Re:Just a game (2)

Carnivorous Vulgaris (1964964) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889674)

If this is just a game, how can we tell who the NPCs are?

Re:Just a game (2)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889692)

Welcome to Corneria.

Re:Just a game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34890050)

I like swords.

Re:Just a game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34890072)

Welcome to Corneria.

Re:Just a game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34890160)

I like swords.

Re:Just a game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34891548)

I like swords.

Re:Just a game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34895008)

Welcome to Corneria

Re:Just a game (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889956)

>>>Some higher species might be doing the same thing with us humans.

Ahhh..... you've seen the end of Men In Black 2. ;-) As for this game I'm pretty sure I've already played it on my 70s-era Atari: http://www.arcade-museum.com/game_detail.php?game_id=9026 [arcade-museum.com]

And of course other Pac-Man clones like Maze Craze, Make Trax, Ladybuy, Mouse Trap (cats instead of ghosts - eat a pill and your mouse becomes adog), and so on. Some of these were better than the official Pacman/Ms Pacman from Atari, although I think Jr PacMan was the best of the bunch (it's a real challenge).

Re:Just a game (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890254)

If you can't kill them, they're definitely an NPC. If they keep repeating themselves or try sending them on a quest they're probably an NPC too. It's worth trying to kill these ones just for bug testing purposes. Careful though, if you're too obvious with the killings, the admins often send guards after you. The guards are harder to kill as they often work in groups, so running away is the best idea here.

Re:Just a game (1)

Brannoncyll (894648) | more than 3 years ago | (#34891694)

Also remember that this game has no respawns unless you hail from a particular region of south-Asia (a privilege granted for chumming up the devs no doubt).

Re:Just a game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34889942)

Isn't it already called "Guantanamo"?

Re:Just a game (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34889980)

Yeah, where does the line get drawn. Dog vs. dog combat landed Michael Vick in jail for a stretch, but there's a long ways to go (in the Aristotilean sense) between paramecia and dogs.

Sounds pretty cruel to me (was: Re:Just a game) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34890308)

When I first saw the article I said "cool!", but then a little voice in the back of my brain whispered "hold on, aren't they torturing those poor things?"

Seriously - scientists manipulating live paramecia by running the voltage around them up and down to play video games? Now, I don't know about you but if I were a single celled organism being used as a human's plaything in this way I think I'd be trying to figure out how to morph into the next Spanish flu virus to get my revenge...

Re:Sounds pretty cruel to me (was: Re:Just a game) (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890372)

If you could mutate from a protozoa to a virus... well, we have a Noble prize at hand!

Re:Sounds pretty cruel to me (was: Re:Just a game) (1)

bpsbr_ernie (1121681) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890380)

I was thinking the same thing. I expect PETA to step in at any time now...

the arrogance of this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34889694)

disgusting. they are life too.

Re:the arrogance of this (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889780)

Um. Have you not noticed that we humans are the characters in a game and the score is money? Guess who the players are as well.

Re:the arrogance of this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34889794)

And we have a winner!!! Checking in at 7 minutes after the story was posted PETA! and it's slanted "things are alive!" view. So are you saying you don't dust your house either? How about bathing?

Re:the arrogance of this (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34889858)

you do know where your posting right ?

Re:the arrogance of this (2)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889866)

Hope you've never played naughts and crosses on paper, that shit is made fom plants you know.

Re:the arrogance of this (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890098)

there is an industry of creating paper, because we use it for various things that lead to food and shelter. some of us exercise our minds from time to time by playing tictactoe, and that doesn't seem directly related to our survival. however, that is still a sort of training.
this particular story discusses some people who took a computer game and tried to recreate it with live creatures. it is wrong because there is no advantage in doing it with live creatures (even if there might be a point to actually proving that it can be done). If they can show that they learned someting new by doing this, then it might make sense. But from what I see, they're just saying that they're making chemistry more attractive. That doesn't make sense to me, because I'm sure it would be much cheaper to just reproduce the chemistry in an actual computer game, than working with the real thing.

Re:the arrogance of this (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890362)

Many times you don't know what the benefit of a science experiment/project will be, not till many years after that. Maybe it started as some kind of pet project (no pun intended), and maybe that's all it will ever amount to. But maybe in a few years we'll see applications for this. Sometimes we just do stuff to "goof around" and we may be surprised at the results. Example: Google's "20% time " revolves exactly around this idea, and it has been very productive.
Now, you might say that I would think differently if the PacMan game involved dogs and not Paramecium, and I would probably agree. In all experiment we have to weight the suffering of the subject with the visible benefit of the project. Paramecium is a protozoa , which is a primitive organism with no nervous system [chestofbooks.com] (second paragraph), while a dog is a much more advanced organism which shows obvious signs of suffering when hurt.
If you would argue that "useless" experiments on all organisms are prohibited, it will be a huge hinderence to science and in the long run might prevent the development of life saving inventions. And yes, there is a hidden assumption that human life is more important than Paramicium's; if we don't agree on that, we will have a hard time agreeing on anything else regarding this subject.

Re:the arrogance of this (1)

supertrinko (1396985) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890388)

I find your conditions for respecting life intriguing. If we gain from it, then it's ok to treat them badly?

Re:the arrogance of this (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890044)

I agree, and I don't really know why they modded you down.
This is worse than organized dog/cock fights.
I understand that these things don't have a mind of their own (as far as we can tell), but I say it's wrong.

Re:the arrogance of this (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890294)

How the hell is it worse than making dogs and cocks (hur hur hur) fight each other? Puppies are way cuter than parameciumseses.

Re:the arrogance of this (4, Insightful)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890314)

uhh...it's worse than dog fights? You're trolling, right? Dogs are social, self-aware beings that can solve complex problems, have emotions, form social bonds, suffer, experience joy, etc. Paramecium...are single-celled organisms. You might as well be concerned about torturing a rock, or air; they have no ability to feel pain, and certainly no ability to suffer.

Re:the arrogance of this (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34892968)

they have no ability to feel pain, and certainly no ability to suffer.

How do you know?

It lacks sufficient complexity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900922)

Pain is entirely the creation of a nervous system, and suffering is the creation of memory of pain.

A paramecium does not have the capacity for either. It can react to stimulus, but it lacks the capacity for deciding on a conscious or subconscious level whether such stimulus is pleasant or not in the same way a single transistor is incapable of running a program.

Re:It lacks sufficient complexity (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901470)

Pain is entirely the creation of a nervous system, and suffering is the creation of memory of pain.

How do you know?

Re:the arrogance of this (1)

zygotic mitosis (833691) | more than 3 years ago | (#34893224)

Don't worry. The researchers have asked the colony for volunteers. All paramecia you see are in the game of their own free will

Trellises must be evil too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900582)

If you have a problem with directing the growth and movement of single-celled life, then I'm guessing you must consider growing ivy on a trellis to be some form of slavery.

For crying out loud, it not only doesn't have a nervous system, it doesn't have an ANYTHING system. If this is the level of life at which human interference is considered cruel, than I hope you don't eat.

Or shower. Or walk or breathe too heavily. Or defecate considering what /that/ does to millions of single-celled lifeforms in your own body.

do it with electrodes in a frog's brain (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889706)

go to i95 or you rlocal 8 lane highway, play frogger for real

since frog muscles will respond to electric jolts after death, do it with a dead frog, so PETA can't complain

then you have something even better than the classic arcade: zombie frogger

or, more in style with the electrical bolts and mad scientist-messing-with-life theme here: frankenstein frogger

Zombie Frogger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34890090)

Hey that actually sounds doable. Other games in IRL might be named "Warcraft: Bashing and Costume Drama" and "Snake: Fruits on a Plane". This list should be extended, IMHO. :)

Re:do it with electrodes in a frog's brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34890432)

or, more in style with the electrical bolts and mad scientist-messing-with-life theme here: frankenstein frogger

Is there a way to tag a post as whatcouldpossiblygowrong?

Re:do it with electrodes in a frog's brain (1)

Viperpete (1261530) | more than 3 years ago | (#34891016)

Who needs electricity, just use good ol' mechanical force and launch them across the freeway, some may prefer to throw them, use a bat or even make an elaborate catapult (frogapult?) I find a tennis racquet works quite well.

Re:do it with electrodes in a frog's brain (1)

Briareos (21163) | more than 3 years ago | (#34891662)

Who needs electricity, just use good ol' mechanical force and launch them across the freeway,[...]

"Angry Frogs"?

Re:do it with electrodes in a frog's brain (1)

fishexe (168879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900506)

since frog muscles will respond to electric jolts after death, do it with a dead frog, so PETA can't complain

Meh, you'll probably give them a reason to complain by how you procure a dead frog. I'm guessing it has to be fairly fresh for that to work.

Plutocrat version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34889712)

There's a version in the works that Plutocrats use - it uses real life human beings. Apparently, buying ball clubs and getting their bitches in Congress to do their bidding isn't enough. They want direct control: push joystick button and get Congressman to vote "Nay". Move joystick to next Congressmen and press button for another vote.

Ball games will use poor people that have had their jobs sent overseas and I hear the current volunteer military is half way to what they want: they're able to get young people with absolutely no job prospects (regardless of the amount of education they have) to join the military to pay their student loans. They're just working up to controlling individuals ......

Combat? (1)

errxn (108621) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889752)

Can I play Combat with it? That way, I can pull the good ol' "shoot-him-through-the-wall" trick and then watch when it gets all pissed off and throws the controller at me.

This is probably the most pointless thing.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34889760)

...I've seen in a while. It doesn't even excite the geek in me. I could do the same thing with dryer lint and superimpose a game on top of it. Woooohoo! Dryer Lint plays Pac Man!!!!!!

In B4 PETA! (1)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889766)

In before PETA drama!

*reads comments in the FA* ...crap.

Re:In B4 PETA! (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889878)

Are you breathing? Are your saliva glands, stomach and intestine working? Do you have white blood cells?

If any of the above are true your body already is a micro-organism slaughter ground.

Beware (2)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889816)

If you hit their modem line and hack into, another game will be available, "Global Biological War", but i remember that the only way to win is not to play it.

In other news.... (1)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34889832)

The researchers at Stanford University were dismayed when told by the department head that they needed to shut the project down after receiving a cease and desist letter from Capcoms lawyers stating they were committing copyright infringement.

Re:In other news.... (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890000)

*chuckle*

But what I find more likely is that Stanford lawyers have already rushed out and patented using non-sentient life as a component in computer games, and would sue CapCom if they did the same.

Re:In other news.... (1)

Velox_SwiftFox (57902) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890010)

And a notice from the state game commission that it might violate laws against "virtual" remote hunting of live organisms if implemented over the Internet.

Wasn't this an MST3K invention exchange? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34890016)

Remember "Micro-Golf" from the Secret Agent Super Dragon episode?

It's minigolf played on a microscope with paramecium and other microscopic organism:

[skip to 5:12]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZMn6sZa-js [youtube.com]

as the token vegan and animal rights activist... (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890356)

as the token vegan and animal rights activist let me just say that I greatly appreciate the respect people give when comparing concerns about the treatment of animals that are capable of suffering (dogs, pigs, cows, etc) to...paramecium. Nothing says you know you're wrong better than overblowing a comparison to silly, extreme levels to try to defame your opponent.

Not a PETA supporter, but ... (1)

fleeped (1945926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890590)

While I happily eat pigs, cows, fish & all sorts of meat, I'd never kill them or torture them for fun ( ok I've done it as a kid, but who hasn't). Of course there's a difference between pigs and paramecium, but the idea is the same, and the 'capability of suffering' threshold is very very vague, like arbitrary. Using living things for research, I'm totally ok with that. Eating living things as we're higher in the food chain, I'm totally ok with that. Harming living things for fun is not cool - Uncoolness factor being proportional to living thing complexity.

Whoah (2)

chrisG23 (812077) | more than 3 years ago | (#34890954)

This creeps me the fuck out on a base level.

Re:Whoah (3, Funny)

Xyrus (755017) | more than 3 years ago | (#34891640)

I know it does. I just upped the impulse in your amygdala and slightly lowered your dopamine. It was a slight penalty to my logical reasoning score but gave me much needed morality points.

Re:Whoah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34892888)

This is a very important point. This is exactly the sort of thing that makes the general public despise scientists, thus opening the door for any number of crackpots and flimflam merchants.

There are two basic problems here:

1. It shows scientists apparently toying with living creatures for absolutely no reason.
2. It suggests that research scientists spend a lot of time intellectually jacking off rather than curing cancer like their supposed to.

On top of this, too many scientists lack even a basic grasp of philosophy, so when it comes to defending the ethics of stuff like this they actually say some pretty stupid stuff, made all the worse by an almost religious self-righteousness. This just widens the gap between science and the public. A little more humility and consideration for the ideas of people outside the scientific community would go a hell of long way towards bringing people onside in more important debates like climate change and evolution.

Uh-oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34891042)

This gives new meaning to "Pac-man Fever".

BEST. STORY. EVER. (1)

DumbparameciuM (772788) | more than 3 years ago | (#34891992)

*points to user name*

I would have been up for playing games with you guys whenever - you just had to ask!!!

Re:BEST. STORY. EVER. (1)

fishexe (168879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900548)

*points to user name*

I would have been up for playing games with you guys whenever - you just had to ask!!!

...but it's more fun to force you by electrically controlling your impulses.

Where's PETA? NT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34892676)

Where's PETA?

Needs better DRM (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34905390)

This game could easily be hacked to connect the controller directly to the game. That would be unfair to all those who achieved a decent high score using the paramecium-webcam interface.

- RG>

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