Protocell Circus (2010) a.k.a. A “Natural History” of Protocells, by Dr Rachel Armstrong and Michael Simon Toon. Protocells could be the beginning of life on Earth, perhaps even, the birth of consciousness as we understand it. These simple ‘prototype cells’ are tiny bubbles, the result of a reaction from a few basic chemicals. They exhibit complex and life-like behaviors which may answer Charles Darwin’s unanswered question regarding the “spark of life” that started evolution on its journey, as well as the question asked by Neil deGrasse Tyson, on ‘Charlie Rose,’ in response to Charlie Rose’s question, “What’s the one most important question you would like to see answered?” 25 minutes into the show.

If the behaviors of the protocells appear similar to our own, it may be because our own behaviors reflect those of the protocells - life as we currently know it may be the result of the evolution of a physiochemical reaction such as this; we, and the protocells, may be a manifestation of the universe’s already-present consciousness, permitted by the inherent properties, behaviors and interactions of certain physical matter.

In 2010, Protocell Circus was exhibited at the Royal Society’s British Film Institute in South Bank, London, and again in 2011. In 2011, as part of a discussion panel it was endorsed by Douglas Trumbull, visual effects creator for 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Andromeda Strain and Bladerunner. Also in 2011, Protocell Circus was exhibited at Chelsea Art Museum in Manhattan, New York; Google Headquarters, New York; ‘Synth-ethic,’ an Art and Synthetic Biology Exhibition at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria; and referenced in a paper published by the German Ethics Council titled, “The importance of synthetic biology for science and society.”

Protocell creation and footage by senior
TED fellow and UCL teaching fellow Dr Rachel Armstrong at University College London lab. Editing, image-enhancement, sound design, thought moments subtitles, website and contents by Michael Simon Toon.