Just a short post here about “art meets science”. A project at UC San Diego has created “flashing bacterial signs” (also called “biopixels”) that synchronously flash on and off through controlled fluorescence. Which is pretty cool by itself, and reminds me a bit of the stunt with the Contagion promo. See the original paper here.
But where it gets much more interesting is the idea of using bacteria like this as biosensors in the built environment. The idea is to use quorum sensing to synchronize enough bacteria to create a visual signal in response to a high level of some contaminant in the environment such as arsenic. There are a number of potential advantages of using such a biological sensor including low-cost and the ability to continuously measure an environment over a long period of time.