A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Slime Mold Network Engineering
Who would you ask to do the best possible job of connecting disparate locations with an efficient transport system? Engineers? Try slime mold.
Transport networks are ubiquitous in both social and biological systems. Robust network performance involves a complex trade-off involving cost, transport efficiency, and fault tolerance. Biological networks have been honed by many cycles of evolutionary selection pressure and are likely to yield reasonable solutions to such combinatorial optimization problems. Furthermore, they develop without centralized control and may represent a readily scalable solution for growing networks in general. (1)
In the picture shown below, researchers have carefully placed oat flakes in the pattern of Japanese cities around Tokyo. The slime mold Physarum polycephalum was introduced, eventually connecting the flakes with an efficient network to distribute nutrients throughout the single celled organism.
(Slime mold connects oat flakes like cities in Japan)
Initially, the slime mold dispersed evenly around the oat flakes, exploring its new territory. But within hours, the slime mold began to refine its pattern, strengthening the tunnels between oat flakes while the other links gradually disappeared. After about a day, the slime mold had constructed a network of interconnected nutrient-ferrying tubes. Its design looked almost identical to that of the rail system surrounding Tokyo, with a larger number of strong, resilient tunnels connecting centrally located oats. “There is a remarkable degree of overlap between the two systems,” Mark Fricker of the University of Oxford says. (2)
Fricker is one of several researchers contributing a paper this month to Science on using the slime mold’s behavior to create a biology-inspired mathematical description of network formation. In their research, the slime-based model first creates a fine mesh network that goes everywhere. The mathematical model uses an ongoing process to refine the network so that the tubes carrying the most material grow more robust and redundant tubes are removed.
It's not a prediction, but I'm reminded of the work of the clever intellectual cells in Greg Bear's wonderful 1984 novel Blood Music. In the story, they become more intelligent and, when introduced into the body of researcher Virgil Ulam, they restructure his body for greater efficiency, building networks that are actually visible across the surface of his skin.
If I can find my copy of the book, I'll drop in an appropriate passage. Unfortunately, Blood Music is not one of those books that stays put on your shelf; friends want to borrow it, you read parts of it and put it down somewhere.... you get the picture.
From (1) Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design via (2) Science News; thanks to an alert reader who passed on the tip about this great story.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/25/2010)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Baubotanik - Construction Botany - Builds Bridges
'A dwelling must be all of a unit—the walls, the drainage, the decor grown in!' - Jack Vance, 1954.
Mice Gestate In Mechanical Womb
'... in the Decanting Room, the newly-unbottled babes uttered their first yell of horror and amazement.' - Aldous Huxley, 1932.
Worlds With Underground Oceans More Conducive To Life
'There is life on Europa.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1982.
Monkey Gets A Bigger Brain, Thanks To Human Gene
'It's a madhouse! a madhouse!' - Planet of the Apes, 1968.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
LoadRunner Robot Works Alone, Or In A Group
'They marched in unison, seven of them...'
Sierra Space Inflatable LIFE Habitat Burst Pressure Test
'It was like being inside a balloon...'
Longest Immersed Tunnel Will Connect Denmark and Germany
'... iron tubes... the ends of the tubes were joined to each other...to preserve it from the action of the seawater.'
Alcohol-Sensing Cars - NTSB Catches Up With Philip K. Dick (1963)
'Mr. Garden, you are in no condition to drive....'
Solar-Powered Remote-Control Cockroaches!
'A cable, here, from the controller to the interface plug... wires from that to the brain.'
SolarBotanic Tree For Solar Energy - Would You Need A Forest, Or Just One?
'The slender stalks of a sunshade-photocell collector...'
Metaverse Hardware - Run And Flail Like A Maniac, Or Lie Quietly?
'Holodeck 4 was waiting to be programmed...'
Robot Food Delivery Coming To Campus Near You
'... he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'
Are Craiyon Images Puddinged, ala Philip K. Dick?
'I stood in line for half an hour for this, and it's just a blob!'
Hip'Safe Airbag For Seniors, From Helite
'Other airbags go off around her torso and pelvis...'
Soulaje Self-Administered Euthanasia Wearable Prototype
'A young man... advanced with nervous strides along the gravel path which leads to the bronze doors of the Lethal Chamber.'
Midjourney AI Creates 'Théâtre D'opéra Spatial', Wins Art Fair First Prize
'... we'll give him in his brain what he needs for creation.'
Mobot Robot Tests Smartphone Apps With Its Finger
'Rapidly, purposefully, the metallic fingers moved over the key-boards...'
Space-Based Solar Power A Priority - European Space Agency
'...vast man-made disk of metal set spinning about the sun to supply the Earth with power.'
Goldilocks Zones Found On The Moon
Hopefully, there are no Mynocks in shadowed lunar craters, chewing on the power cables of spacecraft...
Robotic Surgeons Outperform Human Surgeons
'...the objects moving about so gently and putting their instruments away were not living beings, but robots.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories