Colorful Amoebas


An exhibit from the Cybernetic Aquarium

An amoeba is a relatively complex single-celled creature. At birth, each is randomly assigned a single hue, as well as an arbitrary shape, size, and speed. Amoebas are translucent, so when they overlap, their colors add together to form a new color.

Amoeba proteus is a single-celled microbe often found in pond water and science labs. It moves by extending its cell membrane toward a favorable spot, then flowing its protoplasm in that direction. In art, Surrealists such as Jean Arp used stylized versions of these creatures in their more abstract paintings and sculptures. Animated versions of these shapes can be found in Alexander Calder's mobiles. They then became a prominent motif in the "Atomic Age" design of the 1950s. Echoes can be found in the free-form color blobs found in lava lamps and in the light shows popular at rock concerts in the psychedelic sixties.