Unusual ways of doing research

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Unusual ways of doing research

Postby Richard » 03 May 2018 08:03

Apparently, there is now a research centre where the researchers are not human, and, no, they're not computers either. They're slime moulds!

The Plasmodium Consortium addresses social issues using slime moulds as the researchers (see https://www.hampshire.edu/news/2018/02/ ... in-gallery). As an example, here's something from New Scientist: "Another scenario models the opioid crisis in the US using valerian root, which distracts slime moulds to the point of starvation. Pure valerian root is placed at the centre of a petri dish, with concentric circles featuring diminishing amounts of the root mixed with escalating amount of nutrients. The final ring is pure nutrient.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the recipient of Keats’s letter on this matter, will no doubt be thrilled to read that “Confronted with a binary choice between a highly-addictive chemical and a nutritionally-balanced meal, slime mold populations will consistently choose the former, with consequences that can be fatal. However when presented with a chemical gradient between the addictive substance and nutrients – equivalent to availability of gateway drugs in a human environment – slime molds show a distinct tendency to migrate from the former toward the latter, but not from the latter to the former.” The bottom line is that “gateway drugs” shouldn’t be considered dangerous, but rather as potential off-routes for addicts."

This is a brilliant way of doing something fun and interesting related to research while gaining publicity. so 2 questions:

1. Could a slime mould experiment be designed to investigate a linguistic issue?

2. Can you think of another way of addressing research problems through a very unusual simulation?
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Re: Unusual ways of doing research

Postby punjaporn » 07 May 2018 08:38

That was an interesting experiment. (I hope you still need a human researcher for your research center!)
I have no idea how this mold experiment can be applied to linguistic research, but I think it is possible for language learning research.
In the same way as the lab observed mold’s route, I have a simple idea of tracing students during their SALC visits. We might track all locations students visited, activities they engaged from start to end points of the visit, etc. Could patterns of these routes tell us about self-learning behavior?
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