Creating bacterial ‘fight clubs’ to discover new drugs

“Creating bacterial “fight clubs” is an effective way to find new drugs from natural sources.”

Bacteria Fight ClubThat is the conclusion of a team of Vanderbilt chemists who have been exploring ways to get bacteria to produce biologically active chemicals which they normally hold in reserve. These compounds are called secondary metabolites. They are designed to protect their bacterial host and attack its enemies, so they often have the right kind of activity to serve as the basis for effective new drugs.

… the “fight club” approach [analyzes] what happens when microbes compete.

… This procedure allowed the chemists to discover a new member of a class of biomolecules with broad-ranging activity ….


Via Slashdot.

This could be modeled as a game, either for pure entertainment — fight, bacteria, fight! — or as an aid to research (with bacteria fights!).

Do Fruit Flies Have Emotions?

“For us, that’s a big step beyond just casually intuiting that a fly fleeing a visual threat must be ‘afraid,’ based on our anthropomorphic assumptions.It suggests that the flies’ response to the threat is richer and more complicated than a robotic-like avoidance reflex.Drosophila Thinking Question

This may be useful to game designers. Can we make a bot that actually feels fear … and if not, how close can we get?

Using fruit flies to study the basic components of emotion, a new Caltech study reports that a fly’s response to a shadowy overhead stimulus might be analogous to a negative emotional state such as fear — a finding that could one day help us understand the neural circuitry involved in human emotion.



Behavioral Responses to a Repetitive Visual Threat Stimulus Express a Persistent State of Defensive Arousal in Drosophila @ Cell Press

Media Mentions:

Fruit Flies Are Shown to Enter a Fearlike State @ NY Times

Animal emotions: Do fruit flies feel fear? @ CS Monitor


Drosophila @ Wikipedia

See Also:


Deep: a video game for calm, deep breathing

“New methods for treating anxiety, trauma and mental illness are emerging at the intersection of games and therapy.” – Laura Hudson

Deep (video game) @

Deep, a virtual reality game developed for the Oculus Rift, has set out to do just that. It’s based on the same sort of deep breathing exercises that many anxiety sufferers—and meditation/yoga enthusiasts—are already familiar with, coupled with immersive visuals and audio that make you feel like you’re suspended in a dreamy, underwater world. A belt secured around your body senses when you inhale and exhale, causing you to “rise” and “fall” rhythmically within the water as you explore a “zen garden” of coral and colored lights.

Developer Owen Harris had been using breathing exercises to manage his own anxiety for years, and “when VR arrived… I knew exactly what I wanted to do: I wanted to build something where at the end of a stressful day I could just go to, and it’d become my own little isolation tank,” Harris told Vice. “I was building this thing for myself; it never really occurred to me to be showing it to other people.”

[Source: Laura Hudson @ Boing Boing]

More likes this, please. The world could use more tranquility games, peace games, do-good-deeds games.


“OpenWorm is an open source project dedicated to creating a virtual C. elegans nematode in a computer.”

openworm.orgOpenWorm Logo

Via Boing Boing:

Wagner James Au sez, “OpenWorm, as the name suggests, is a collaborative open source project to computationally create a simple artificial life form — an earth worm — from the cellular level to a point where it’s sophisticated enough to solve basic problems. They’re still in early stages, with the latest demo, a developer on the project tells me, being ‘a particle simulation of five connected muscle segments moving together through a body of water.'”

See also Caenorhabditis elegans @ Wikipedia:

Caenorhabditis elegans /ˌseɪnɵræbˈdɪtɪs ˈɛlɛɡænz/ is a free-living, transparent nematode (roundworm), about 1 mm in length, which lives in temperate soil environments.
Caenorhabditis elegans (

Yes. The Handy Vandal approves. More of this, please.

Update: October 14, 2013

I added this post to the “Somebody Should Make This Game” category.

Modeling a nematode is fine, hooray for Science.

But man does not live by Education alone — we also need Entertainment.

Can I get a giant weaponized self-assembling cyber-nematode as a first-person shooter, in a secret weapon-breeding hive beneath a Soylent Green factory? Anyone …?

I’d pay to play that game!

Lessons in Building Information Modeling Adoption

“The whole process becoming like a video game design with everyone together working around one work space for a true collaborative effort.”
Building Information Modelling

This article about Building Information Modeling (BIM) has interesting implications for game design:

For Scott Simpson, FAIA, LEED AP, senior director of architectural firm Kling-Stubbins, BIM is not a way of business; it is the way of business.

[BIM] includes visualization, simulation, coordination of the documents and quantification of what’s inside the building.

With BIM, “we can show the 3-D implications of the design decisions-the colors, the surfaces, the materials, the light … we can simulate how the acoustics will perform … how much things will cost, how they will look, feel behave, etc.,” said Simpson. “This is an incredibly powerful tool for us to make our clients true partners in the design process. I am a big believer that the more brainpower you get involved in the design process the better it’s going to be.”

… Simpson also shared some of what he views as “the brave new world of BIM.” This includes seeing every project [industry wide] being done on BIM; the whole process becoming like a video game design with everyone together working around one work space for a true collaborative effort; all documentation being done in 3-D and 4-D formats; all projects being done in a year or less; a world with no change orders.

USGlass News Network

See also Building Information Modelling @ Wikipedia

Speaking as a guy who has to deal with change orders (in software development, not building management, but the same complaint applies), I can assure you that “a world with no change orders” sounds good to me.

Traffic Mimes

“The people of Bogota were more concerned about social disapproval than traffic fines, and so mimes [were hired] to playfully reproach drivers that crossed red lights …”

Marcel Marceau Conquers BogotaTraffic miming — the use of mimes to help calm and direct big-city traffic — is a kind of game design, and might prove a source of inspiration to game designers:

In 1995, the traffic in Bogota, Colombia, was so chaotic that drivers had long since given up obeying the rules of the road, resulting in a disorderly free-for-all that was a major impediment to the city’s economy. The recently elected mayor of the city, who came to prominence after dropping his trousers to silence a hall of rioting students, decided on a creative solution to this similarly vexing problem: a troop of mimes.

Antanas Mockus realised that the people of Bogota were more concerned about social disapproval than traffic fines, and so hired mimes to playfully reproach drivers that crossed red lights, blocked junctions and ignored pedestrian crossings. One cannot police by mimes alone and in a further measure to address driving behaviour, the mayor’s office brought in flashcards to allow social feedback. Each citizen was given a red card to signal to someone that their driving was poor and a white card to signal that the person who been particularly courteous or considerate.

Mind Hacks

Via Boing Boing. This dates back to 2004 … I’m digging through old bookmarks, picking out a few favorites.

Caspian Learning Launches Simulation-Focused Web Deployment Tool

Caspian Learning is now offering development tools for web-based simulations, including first-person over-the-shoulder view in 3D worlds:

Thinking Worlds editor

Simulations and serious games created using Caspian’s Thinking Worlds authoring tool may now be accessed online via Shockwave and Java, obviating the need for game-specific browser plugins.

The new functionality is made possible thanks to a recent core Thinking Worlds update integrating Java Applet and Java Webstart development. Java deployment will be available to all Thinking Worlds users in the next version release.

Thinking Worlds logo“Java technology is present in almost all of the world’s corporate and military networks,” notes Lee Rushworth, Marketing Executive for Caspian Learning. “Having the ability to rapidly create and publish simulations into these secure networks without the need for additional 3rd party plugins removes another huge barrier to the widespread adoption of simulations for training and performance within these sectors.”

Danny Cowan @ Serious Games Source

Now there’s an interesting observation: “Java technology is present in almost all of the world’s corporate and military networks.”

The Predictioneer’s Game

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, author of The Predictioneer’s Game, describes his game theory method as “a way of evaluating how people interact when they are trying to advance their own interests.”The Predictioneers Game, by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is a professor of politics at New York University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California. In his new book, The Predictioneer (The Predictioneer’s Game in the US), he describes a computer model based on game theory which he — and others — claim can predict the future with remarkable accuracy.


Empowering Africa

Urgent Evoke is “a crash course in saving the world” …

Urgent Evoke

Online game seeks to empower Africa

Game designer Jane McGonigal sees “superheroes” with untapped potential that can be used to fix vexing real-world problems.

McGonigal’s latest online game, called “Urgent Evoke,” launches on Wednesday. With it, she hopes to channel the obsessive focus online games create into something more productive than conquering monsters and earning virtual weapons.

She wants to push people in Africa — a long-troubled continent where people might feel less empowered than elsewhere — to solve problems like environmental degradation, lack of food, water scarcity, poverty and violence.

To do this, the Urgent Evoke game — classified in the emerging “alternate reality” genre — straddles the online and physical worlds. Players, a few hundred of whom are in Africa, earn points and power-ups by completing real-world tasks like volunteering, making business contacts or researching an issue, then submitting evidence of their work online.

At the end of the game, McGonigal expects some players to have business plans about how they will improve the world.

.. A new challenge, such as a famine or water shortage, is presented to players at midnight for 10 weeks. Players earn points by accepting the challenges and then responding with evidence that they’ve used their real-life “superhero” powers to help. A person might, for example, contact a community organization that specializes in environmental issues, or try to provide meals for someone in their neighborhood.

… People spend a collective 3 billion hours per week playing online games today, she said. That number must be 21 billion — seven times the current amount — for our society to realize its innovative and creative potential, she said.

.. In 2007, she created an online game called World Without Oil, which challenged people to re-imagine their lives without their dependence on fossil fuels.

John D. Sutter @ CNN

See also AvantGame by Jane McGonigal.