Being a Unicellular Organism

Project research

Cosmo Niklas Schüppel


pre-project reasearch and how these experimants changed my view on the installation, that I want to do

In preparation of the now final project “common ground” I did a number of experiments with the micro-algae Euglena Gracilis. The two main research areas where Euglena’s reaction to electromagnetic fields and sonic frequencies. In this short article, I want to summarise my research conclusions and I want to show how they affected my installation “common ground”.

In my experiments upon electromagnetic fields, I tried to revalidate a paper from the year 1978, done by C. Ascoli, M. Barbi, C. Frediani, and D.Petracchi, called “Effects of electromagnetic fields on the motion of Euglina Gracilis”. In the paper the scientists prove the change of movement of E. Gracilis under electromagnetic current. In their studies, a change of movement was visible at 90V and strong effects where tested up to 270V. The setup that I used consisted of a power supply that could provide a 30V current and Voltage-Sensor for an Arduino, which was measuring the current through my laptop. I was very well aware that a 30V current might not be enough to show any kind of movement change in the Euglina, but because of the project, that these experiments where connected to at the time (connecting Euglena’s change of movement under electricity, with the debated affect of electromagnetic fields on the human body and working with electronic audio signals), I was curious to find out if there is already a change of movement when E. Gracilis is exposed to small amounts of electricity. I started with the exposure the specimens too low electromagnetic voltage, starting at 1V and raising it up to 30V slowly, while recording their movement under the microscope. But my experiment did never show any effect on the Euglena cells, even though many variations in starting voltage and raising time. The only change of behaviour occurred when the liquid medium of E. Gracilis dried out, due to the heat of the electricity and the cells bowled-up into their ‘sleeping-state’. Because of these results affecting the feasibility of my current project and the limited resources that I had, I decided to burry them. I moved on to another project idea and to another experiment.

Due to the disappointing results of the electromagnetic-field-experiments I moved on to the field of sonic frequencies, upon which I haven’t found any papers or experiments before hand, but which awoke my interest from the very first contact with he micro-algae. Again I monitored the movement of euglena under the microscope, I set up a speaker next to them, measured the decibel with an Arduino sensor and exposed them to sonic frequencies, that I played on an oscillator. In this series of experiment the results where not clearly assessable to me. There where movement changes of the cells but they seem to be strongly connected to the change of vibration in the water. Especially around 80Hz (60dB) the vibration in the medium was very visible. The change in movement of Euglena Gracilis did not seem generalisable.

On the ground of these, not very successful, experiments I based my project “common ground”, in which I illustrate the topic of different principles of perception in different species. It was important to me to explore this conclusions, even though it might seem to be general knowledge to again make myself aware about the non-transferability of assumptions, based on my perception, on other beings. Upon this I based the statement of “common ground”, that it might be not as useful to try to find out how others behave, then it is to understand ones own reaction. To make this perceivable I planned “common ground” to create a space in which humans and Euglena cells will be exposed to the same stimulant (sonic waves), but the reaction of euglena is unclear to the visitor. This would reverse the expectations the visitor has when going into the installation: seeing the specimens react, but instead being ‘forced’ to watch their own reaction instead.