2020 Video: In-Depth Reporting - Silver

The Blob, a creature out of a science fiction horror film, has given its name to a baffling single-celled organism that has puzzled scientists around the world. Neither plant, animal nor mushroom, the organism ― called a slime mold ― has no eyes, mouth, stomach, or legs. But the researchers interviewed by the French team say it can, in effect, see, smell, digest and move around purposefully. It has neither a nervous system nor a brain, but it can solve problems and devise strategies as it moves. The Blob, whose scientific name is Physarum polycephalum, is being studied by biologists, physicists and mathematicians who are developing a field of science in which, the filmmakers say, “intelligence” no longer implies the need for a brain. Audrey Dussutour, one of the scientists interviewed, notes that interest in the Blob may have practical implications. The organism and its slime mold cousins might be able to clean up polluted soils as they move about. The Blob also feeds on bacteria and fungi, secreting potentially useful antibiotics and antifungals. Angela Saini called the winning entry “the kind of film that even those who think they have zero interest in science will find utterly fascinating. Equal parts funny and informative. I plan to watch it again... and again.” Director Jacques Mitsch said the film “is first and foremost a film about basic research that needs to be encouraged even more in these troubled times we live in.” Writer Laurent Mizrahi added, “I'm so happy to see our work on the Blob be appreciated worldwide.”