Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Fantastic Voyage: First Impressions

    A new project has been given to us by Prof. Klappa of the University of Kent. The task is to create an informative story/animation on the life cycle of one of four microscopic organisms: hookworms, influenza, malaria and slime mould. The two year Applied Science BTEC is currently acting as a big contributor to my enthusiasm

Looking over the videos provided by Professor Klappa, here are my initial thoughts on each. The overarching theme I got was that nature sure is lovely when it comes to survival tactics.
  • Influenza: Microbiology was part of my studies so it was intriguing to look into this. The nature of a virus indeed makes it hard to define it as "life" since viruses like influenza are essentially a protein/lipid shell containing several strands of RNA: No biological processes. Once it gets inside a cell and reprograms the host to make more of these carriers it works the host like a sweatshop and spitting out viruses like a machinegun until the cell dies of exhaustion. 
  • Slime mould: I got strong vibes of the hungry-hungry caterpillar, Terminator II and The Blob from this one: Spores mature into a kind of amoeba that eats bacteria until it starts starving; this "wave of famine" then causes them to combine into an aggregate mass of amoeba in the form of a slimy blob. The blob then grows fruiting buds that extend upwards, with a select few acting as "baby factories". The top of the bud explodes and the spores are scattered into the wind.
  • Hookworm: This one ties with malaria in the disgust factor as cycle of this one starts with pooh. Yay. When Klappa talked about the worms biting and getting into the bloodstream I got this image of blood cells being pushed aside by a massive worm that speeds all the way to the lungs. I thought it was clever how the larvae triggered a coughing reaction that had them capitalising on the natural tendency to swallow. Their preferred method of feeding (latching on and feeding on your blood) reminds me of vampires. The fact that the species that have adapted to humans are resistant to our stomach acids - tough little things, certainly.
  • Malaria: This one is certainly sticking in my mind even if the life cycle is quite extensive. When Klappa was talking about the method of reproduction (sporozoids infiltrating liver cells and multiplying until the cell swells until it bursts to release thousands of merozoites (larvae I guess) that do the same with red blood cells) is definitely viral and the exponential pattern is characteristic of a zombie apocalypse. The idea that the rarer gamete cells that swim around the blood (cell?) to be sucked up unintentionally by another mosquito is quite devious and makes it sound like infected become living incubators for the gamete cells that form a zygote in a mosquito's gut. Which, joy of joys, opens up to release sporeozites into the mosquito’s saliva for the whole cycle to begin again.
At first I can only envision the hookworm and slime mould being potentially cheerful and it is hookworm and malaria that are sticking in my mind the most.

I am a keen advocator of science and am one for believing that it is something that anyone can take an interest in. So for now I have a few initial considerations for the life form and target audience:

For the Hookworm:
  • Children: A happy story of a cute hookworm that finds its way into someone's body and lives a happy life cutely sucking blood. (Okay this one might be a challenge. Maybe it looks like it kissing the intestinal wall, or I look towards either squirrels or Japanese media).
  • Students: Perhaps another explorative story of a curious hookworm. Less cute than the one for kids, maybe something tech-y or informative.
  • Back-benchers: Connotations of vampirism could draw interest.
For Influenza:
  • Children: I got creeped-out by a student-level animation of a virus entering a cell when I was 12. Might want to stay away from this audience with this.
  • Students: Might require some thought. I've seen so many demonstrations on YouTube and TV that I get the "everything's been done" vibe.
  • Back-Benchers: Shouldn't be too hard to give a zombie-like or robotic aura to it. Showing a cell swarming with infant viruses like a flock of birds could be quite striking.
 For the Slime Mould:
  • Children: The aggregation phase could have a mood that the amoebas are getting together out of desire. If I were to have the animation showing the behaviour of the amoeba I should make sure to make it look like an act of cooperation. I should put emphasis on a charm factor for spores being scattered into the wind
  • Students: The scene in Terminator II where the T-1000 turns into a liquid and reconstructs itself could be an influence here.
  • Back-Benchers: Again, Terminator II. Although maybe combine it with an aggregate blob monster feel. Maybe the first stage could be somewhat game like: The player controls am amoeba as they hoover up smaller bacteria. 
  • Children: Unless I aim for the kind of child that craves the disgusting, this might be harder to do and not scare the living daylights out of the audience.
  • Students: The viral multiplication phases could work like a map of a viral agent on a computer network where malaria "infects" connections on the network, spreading over the body. The video could also end how it began with a vector transferring the matured virus to a new network.
  • Back-Benchers: This microorganism has "zombie apocalypse" written all over its life cycle. The delivery system doesn't have to be organic - perhaps a dive-bomber or spaceship with the profile of a mosquito. It could be to the tone of science fiction (According to one recent art blog, at least one of the ship designs in Jupiter Ascending was inspired by the shape of a lobster, and it wasn't an isolated theme)
This project, depending on which direction I go, could end up quite fun to compose. While looking though my ideas I began to notice that perhaps some of the ideas for each audience could be swapped about.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent initial thoughts and research Mark :) Looking forward to seeing what comes next!