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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Mushroom Coffin Returns You To Nature, Naturally
'She touched the leaf. She was wanted.' - Philip K Dick, 1954.

Mechanical Milking Of Microalgae For Fuel Production
'They call 'em culture tanks. They have bugs -- germs -- growing in them.' - Hal Clement, 1950.

Fetal Lamb Rests In Artificial Womb
'... stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones, the foetuses grew and grew...' - Aldous Huxley, 1932.

Bring Back Extinct Animals! Sort of.
'The worldwide network of genetic arks had a surfeit of pachyderms...' - David Brin, 1990

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Gyroscopic Median-Straddling Mass Transit Vehicles
'It was among these leviathans that the little gyrocar was daring to thrust its puny self...'

Bigrating Laser Beam-Riding Light Sail Is Self-Correcting
'That sail will be twenty thousand miles at the wide part.'

ISS Astronauts Test Estee Lauder 'Advanced Night Repair' Skin Serum
'Out in the New Moon, just ask for what you want...'

LG Wing Twisting Smartphone Might Be Fun
'A polycarbon screen unfurled...'

Mushroom Coffin Returns You To Nature, Naturally
'She touched the leaf. She was wanted.'

Will ATT Offer Ad-Subsidized Cellphone Service
'For long-distance calls the ratio of commercial to conversation was as high as 10 to 1...'

Gyro-X Self-Balancing Two-Wheeler Car
'Indeed, the gyrocar was a sight to make a man look twice.'

Beat Covid-19 With AIR By MicroClimate - At Last I Get My PAPR
More than just a bubble.

Mi TV LUX Transparent Edition OLED TV
The Look of Things To Come.

Metalenses Now Reconfigurable With Liquid Crystal
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension...'

'Alexa For Residential' A Landlord's Dream (Tenant's Nightmare?)
'...unseen mechanical entities... that are in our very midst. One of them following each of us.'

Gather Ye Moonrocks While Ye May
'The law of filing on newly discovered asteroids was definite.'

InMotion V11 Electric Unicycle Gets Air (Video)
'A tumblebug does not give a man dignity...'

Rid Thyself Of Ads On The Newsbox
'Can't we scramble that commercial?'

A.I. Jesus Proclaims Machine Gospel
'... he crossed the waiting room to the Padre booth; inside he put a dime into the slot and dialed at random.'

Google's Remixed 'Your News Update' ala Heinlein, Clarke, Pohl
'Perhaps we had better use the soundtrack and let it hunt.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.