From ant colonies to single-celled slime mold, biologist Audrey Dussutour explores the wonders of animal cognition.
Audrey Dussutour is not shy about admitting that her career, and fame, is a bit of an accident. The French specialist in animal behavior didn’t set out to make discoveries about slime minds, or to write a hugely popular book (Le Blob) about the single-celled learners. “It was not my wish to work on slime molds at all,” Dussutour told Massive, letting out a slow sigh. The first time she saw the organism, as a postdoctoral fellow in Australia, she thought, “My gosh it’s really disgusting. What can I do with this thing?”
Dussutour radiates an infectious passion for slime molds. “It’s one of the most interesting systems to study because it’s a single cell, but you can actually see it with your naked eye,” she says. Now a researcher at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, Dussutour studies how ant colonies and patches of slime molds — neither of which have a central brain — can make decisions with distributed intelligence and emergent plasticity.
Read the full story and Q&A at Science Friday or Massive Science
Zoologist and butt book author Dani Rabaiotti on the worst fart she ever smelled and what new fart research she’d like to see
You’re probably here for the same reason I am: because farts are amazing. A single pffff, poot, or squeak, can plug nostrils, crack smiles, and break tensions. I want to talk about farts.
Dani Rabaiotti is a zoologist based in London who wrote a best-selling book on farts in 2017 called Does it Fart? She and her co-author, ecologist Nick Caruso, along with illustrator Ethan Kocak, followed a trail of animal communication science that is criminally undercovered. In this Q&A, she shares her most memorable farts (a seal’s, not her’s), why cat farts are so bad, the unsolved mysteries of butt-borne defense tactics, and so much more.
Read the full story and Q&A in Massive Science
I write, edit, produce, and fact check for Massive Science. My writing there ranges from fast-turn blogs, and service pieces to profiles and reported news stories.
Select works here:
For a full list of my writing for Massive Science, please refer to my Massive author page
Researchers have pioneered what may be the most accurate simulation of kidney function to-date
The future of medical research may fit on a clear chip not much bigger than a quarter.
In theory, organ-on-a-chip devices are aptly named. The engineered silicone modules contain small “organs,” represented by specific types of human cells. Fluid courses through thin channels — like veins, but only a fraction of the size — which interconnect the various cells, and expose them to drug treatments carefully administered by lab scientists. They may look like gadgets from the future, but these organ-on-a-chip devices have already garnered attention from scientists hoping to fix a broken drug discovery process.
Read more in Massive Science