JACQUES MITSCH .TV

LE BLOB UN GÉNIE SANS CERVEAU

LE BLOB UN GÉNIE SANS CERVEAU

 

1bis_Le Blob_Format portrait_titre © Hauteville Productions

un film de Jacques Mitsch
Écrit par Laurent Mizrahi, Jacques Mitsch & Gilles Pedoussaut
d’après le livre d’Audrey Dussutour
« Tout ce que vous avez voulu toujours savoir sur le Blob sans jamais oser le demander » (Éditions Equateurs)
Produit par Hauteville Production
Karina Si Ahmed, Guillaume Allary & Vivien Meltz

8_Blob_Debordement_ © Hauteville Productions_Audrey Dussutour:CNRS

52′ – 2019
 Résumé:
Ni animal, ni plante, ni champignon, voici le blob ! Un incroyable organisme unicellulaire vieux de près d’un milliard d’années, qui défie les canons de la biologie et vient remettre en cause tout ce que l’on croyait savoir sur l’intelligence du vivant. Cette cellule géante, quasi immortelle et à l’appétit dévorant, est capable de résoudre des problèmes complexes et démontre d’étonnantes capacités d’apprentissage.
Le réalisateur Jacques Mitsch (L’esprit des plantes, Animaux médecins, Le fils de Neandertal…) nous dévoile tout de cette créature hors norme, en compagnie de la chercheuse Audrey Dussutour (CNRS), qui a récemment mis en lumière les incroyables prouesses de ce prodige de l’évolution.Porté par une mise en scène inspirée des codes du film d’épouvante, le film nous entraine dans un voyage au cœur de l’étrange, à la rencontre de chercheurs pionniers dans le domaine de l’intelligence sans cerveau, en Europe, au Japon et aux États- Unis. Une plongée aussi divertissante que savante au cœur de la recherche fondamentale… où le réel dépasse la (science) fiction.

7_Blob_Experience labyrinthe_© Hauteville Productions

 Montage: Gilles Pedoussaut
Musique: Valentine Mitsch
Image: Mathias Touzeris
Son: Gérard Mailleau & Jean-Marc Pédoussaut
2_Blob_© Hauteville Productions
Synopsis:
En 1958, dans un film d’horreur de série B, une effrayante gelée extraterrestre menace d’engloutir la terre et ses habitants : le Blob apparait pour la première fois sur les écrans de cinéma.
Cette créature de science-fiction a donné son surnom à un organisme vivant bien réel, mais qui a tout d’un OVNI scientifique : Physarum Polycephalum.Ni animal, ni plante, ni champignon, le blob est présent sur terre depuis près d’un milliard d’années, ce qui en fait l’un des êtres vivants les plus primitifs, et l’un des plus simple – et pour cause : il n’est constitué que d’une seule et unique cellule.
Mais derrière son apparente simplicité, se cachent des capacités incroyables. Il n’a pas d’yeux, pas de bouche, pas d’estomac ou de pattes… Et pourtant il voit, il sent, il digère, et se déplace. Il n’a ni système nerveux, ni cerveau… Et pourtant, il est capable de résoudre des problèmes complexes, de trouver le chemin le plus court dans un labyrinthe, et même de mémoriser des informations.Cette cellule géante – l’une des très rares cellules visibles à l’œil nu – est actuellement étudiée par des chercheurs du monde entier, qui tentent d’en percer les secrets. Ils nous entrainent à la découverte des incroyables capacités du Blob, et nous font découvrir un champ scientifique dans lequel le mot intelligence ne rime pas forcément avec cerveau.A travers le monde, le film nous emmène à la rencontre des chercheurs pionniers dans ce domaine :
Au CNRS de Toulouse, l’éthologiste Audrey Dussutour s’est spécialisée dans l’étude de Physarum Polycephalum après avoir démontré que le blob était un véritable génie de la nutrition, capable d’optimiser son régime alimentaire afin de favoriser sa croissance.

4_Audrey Dussutour dans son laboratoire du CNRS_© Hauteville Productions

Le biophysicien japonais Toshiyuki Nagaki a quant à lui montré que le réseau que crée le blob pour se nourrir et se déplacer est aussi efficace et performant que l’un des meilleurs systèmes ferroviaires au monde, celui de la région de Tokyo.
A Florence, les biologistes Stefano Mancuso et František Baluška, spécialistes de la cognition chez les végétaux, élargissent la notion d’intelligence au-delà du règne animal, en montrant que les plantes possèdent, à l’extrémité de leur racine, l’équivalent d’un cerveau qui guide leur croissance, et qu’elles sont capables de mémoriser des informations.
Une capacité que possède aussi le blob : Audrey Dussutour a pu démontrer quePhysarum Polycephalum était capable de s’habituer à une substance répulsive (le sel), de mémoriser cet apprentissage, et même de le partager avec d’autres blobs en développant une forme de communication.

6_Blob_Experience nutrition_© Hauteville Productions

Ces découvertes font du blob un organisme modèle aussi bien en biologie et en physique qu’en médecine.
A Brème, les équipes du Professeur Hans-Günther Döbereiner ont ainsi établi un modèle mathématique qui décrit la manière dont le réseau vasculaire du blob se développe – un modèle qui pourrait s’avérer utile pour comprendre comment grandissent les tumeurs cancéreuses.
A Boston, c’est la question de la communication des cellules qui passionne le Dr. Michael Levin, qui tente de décoder le langage cellulaire, afin de comprendre comment les cellules stockent l’information, et comment nous pourrions peut-être, un jour, communiquer avec elles.
A Bristol, enfin, derrières les portes du mystérieux « Laboratoire d’informatique non- conventionnelle », le Pr. Andrew Adamatzky voit dans le blob une formidable opportunité pour développer de nouveaux paradigmes informatiques et de nouvelles conceptions de la robotique.
Les découvertes de ces chercheurs, mises en scène à la manière d’un véritable thriller fantastique, nous entrainent aux sources de l’intelligence sans cerveau, et nous révèlent toute la beauté et les mystères du vivant.

affiche blob anglais

THE BLOB A GENIUS WITHOUT A BRAIN
Known to scientists as slime mold, or myxomycete, the blob is a unicellular organism, which is to say that it is made up of a single giant cell. It has been around for billions of years – long before the appearance of animals or plant life, making it one of the most “primitive” life forms on earth. Some look like big yellow sponges, others resemble lichens or coral – their color changes according to the species: white, black, grey, brown, blue, green, pink, red, yellow…
There are blobs across the planet. They usually live in the underwood, a humid environment away fromlight. But one can also nd them in the desert, the tropics, on mountains, temperate or boreal forests, thearctic tundra… Nothing stops the blob, except areas that are over-exploited by man.
The most studied blob is the Physarum polycephalum.When fed a regular diet of mushrooms and bacteria, it will typically double in size every day. Measuring from 1 cm2 à 10 m2, it has no mouth, stomach, ears, or eyes. And yet, it sees, smells, eats, digests, reproduces, adapts and moves – up to 4cm per hour. With not two but 720 mating types, it can also regenerate, meaning it’s practically immortal. When cut in half, its membranes scar over in a record-breaking two minutes, forming two new, identical blobs.
Not a plant, animal, nor mushroom, it’s an organism that shares characteristics with the three major livingcategories, defying all the laws of biology. It’s enough to have the scienti c community in a tizzy! But whatto make of an organism with no brain or nervous system who can optimize its nutrition, locate itself inspace, escape from a labyrinth, create ef cient and adaptable networks of veins, learn to overcome initialapprehension, transmit its learning to its kin, anticipate and resolve complex problems… in short, show proof of intelligence? Because this is indeed what a blob is capable of…
New research into this strange genius is overturning scienti c certainties about intelligence that were thought to be con rmed. A new, fundamental area of research is opening up before our eyes, a true revolution that is con rming the scienti c revolution expressed by Charles Darwin over a century ago:amongst living creatures, intelligence does not belong only to those with a “complex” brain, but also appliesto “invertebrates” such as insects and jelly sh, plants, and even organisms made up of just one cell, yet ableto develop intelligent behaviors and cognitive skills.
This is what hypnotized Audrey Dussutour, an ethologist at National Center for Scienti c Research (CNRS),who had committed to a career in studying the behavior and nutrition of ants before chancing upon thePhysarum polycephalum. Fascinated by this unicellular organism’s extraordinary capacities, she found herself devoting a greater and greater amount of her time.
For the past nine years she has been conducting a series of experiments in her lab inToulouse that have shed light on the feats of this true prodigy of evolution. In fact, she found its nickname, the blob, taken froma 1958 lm starring Steve McQueen in which an extra-terrestrial jelly invades earth, swallowing all of itsinhabitants…
Today the blob is not just on movie screens, but also appears on the schedules of international scienti c meetings,proof that unicellular expert is starting to be taken seriously.In fact,Audrey Dussutour’s research on the blob and scienti c issues it raises are in no way eccentric or anecdotal: they tell us a lot about theliving world’s unity beyond its diversity, what is “brainless” intelligence, opening new research avenues as exciting as they are dizzying.
IIt’s well known that pioneering research in a central eld leads to material applications. In the blob’s case, these are close at hand. For example, in the eld of pharmaceutical and biomedical research, somescientists work on the hypothesis that the blob might provide new understanding of the parasite behindmalaria (also a unicellular organism) or the development of tumors – whose vascular structure is similar to the blob’s. But the progress in primary research on the blob could also lead to innovations in other elds:the optimization of networks, nutrition, software…
Audrey Dussutour will be the driving force of our documentary: her account in her book Everything you Always Wanted to Know About the Blob (Edition des Equateurs, 2017) put us “in the head of a scientist,” a unique viewpoint into the heart of fundamental research. Her passion for discussing the blob, her centralrole in the most important research on this organism along with international scientists with whom she isvery close and her desire to make every aspect of these unique discoveries accessible to all make of heran ideal guide.
This lm follows a scienti c process and it is structured around the key experiments that allowed Audrey Dussutour and top international experts to further their understanding of the blob and its exceptionalabilities.
Pr. Toshiyuki Nakagaki from Hokkaido University in Japan, whose pioneer experiments on slime moldshave twice earned him IgNobel awards, “honoring achievements that rst make people laugh, and thenmake them think.” Pr. Michael Levin, of Tufts University in Boston, who became renowned for his workon planarians, these aquatic worms with a surprising capacity for regeneration, and is currently workingon cognition at cellular level – and how cellular networks process information. Dr. Frantisek Baluska, a researcher in vegetal physiology at Germany’s University of Bonn and a member of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology in Florence, Italy, who works on cognition amongst plants. Hans-Günther Döbereiner, Professor of Physics at the Institute of Biophysics of the University of Bremen, Germany, specialized on network theory, who uses the blob as a model organism to understand the dynamics ofthe vast networks in relation with medical research (vascularization of tumor cells for instance) as well asoptimization of networks… Andrew Adamatzky, professor of computer science at Bristol’s Universityof the West of England, who sees the blob as a nature-born computer acting like a processor – that is torespond to external signals, to treat them, and complete logical operations – and uses blobs as a sort of “brain” for the robots he built.
These present so many pedagogical and very visual opportunities to dive into the heart of the mystery of living matter, and even to the very roots of the concept of intelligence.
5_Blob_Fusion_© Hauteville Productions
THE BLOB, THIS HERO
In the beginning, the blob is a fantastic, malicious being – a bit kitschand straight out of some science- ction universe, and this B-movie from the late 50s starring Steve McQueen.But behind this extra- vagance, this brainless genius has turned out to be a very seriousresearch subject who may lead to major scienti c discoveries. And it has a major asset that separates it from other unicellular organisms: it’s not microscopic… it’s even very visible and immedia- tely recognizable. Its spongy and colored appearance is unsettling, intriguing, amusing, while the beauty of its very detailed pseudopods proves surprising and captivating. Its hunger, capacity for movement and of exploring its environment, all on the border between plant and animal life, are the source of endless curiosity and even affection. The blob is facetious, unpredictable, surprising; he draws attention,raises questions, (re)awakens a desire to learn. All in all, he brings together all the qualities of a documentary lm’s central character:surprising both in form and substance, leading us to discover an unknown world, of fundamental and applied research, and bringingus to the heart of living matter and a universal, vertiginous questioning.
le blob 1958
THE FILM, AN INVESTIGATION AND REFLECTION ON THE LIVING MATTER
The film will be structured like a scientificc investigation. Obviously, the scientific logic thoroughly dictates the narration’s main stages. But as with my previous science-based lms – especially these two on animaland plant cognition: In the Mind of Plants, (ARTE France, 2009), and Animal Doctors, (ARTE France, 2013) – I wish to endow the lm with its own dramaturgy.This time, I’d like to draw inspiration from the lm thatgave the blob its nickname, placing the codes of fantastic thriller in the service of knowledge. Starting like a police investigation, I will keep on maintaining a strange and outstanding atmosphere: labs will becomeplaces full of mysteries, scienti c instruments could be those of Crime-Scene investigators, and all the experiments that come one after another help us progress in this inquiry…
The research and experiments that we will bring to life are part of a true revolution in the way we see the world around us. My direction must shine a light on these cracks, tip over our certainties. I wish to bringthe viewer to comprehension and re ection through use of juxtaposition, unexpected metaphors and sur-prising humor, emotions and poetry. In this optic, I’ll lm outdoors as much as possible, in the blob’s natural environment, as well as that of its friends (ants, plants, aquatic worms…). As to the scientists’ contributions, I will lm them in action, lmed and grant them their status as full characters, not just limited to interviews with xed ideas. I’ll take the time to reveal their personalities, their way of being or their ironies. My aim is that they not only add to the content, but also the lm’s shape.
Avant-Premières:
Le 26 octobre 2019 au Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris  dans le cadre du festival PARISCIENCE (Le film obtient le Prix du Public)
Le 31 octobre 2019 à La Cinémathèque de Toulouse
Le 2 novembre 2019, projection exceptionnelle au festival de science fiction Les Utopiales de Nantes