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A Life of Slime mold - Master network engineer
Category : IT Infrastructure Setup 24 Jan 2010 12:50 PM | Industry News
Nature's engineer. A slime mold maps out train routes around Tokyo.
The way fungus-like slime moulds grow could help engineers design wireless communication networks.
Scientists drew this conclusion after observing a slime mould as it grew into a network that was almost identical to the Tokyo rail system. The scientists describe their ideas for "biologically inspired networks" in the journal Science. They have incorporated the slime mould's efficient strategy into a mathematical formula. This "slime formula" could help engineers develop better, more efficient designs
Every day, the rail network around Tokyo has to meet the demands of mass transport, ferrying millions of people between distant points quickly and reliably, notes study coauthor Mark Fricker of the University of Oxford. “In contrast, the slime mold has no central brain or indeed any awareness of the overall problem it is trying to solve, but manages to produce a structure with similar properties to the real rail network.”
Slime moulds are unusual critters—neither animal, nor plant nor fungus. If they resemble anything, it is a colonial amoeba. Physarum polycephalum, the species in question, consists of a membrane-bound bag of protoplasm and, unusually, multiple nuclei. It can be found migrating across the floor of dark, damp, northern-temperate woodlands in search of food such as bacteria. It can grow into networks with a diameter of 25cm.
When P. polycephalum is foraging, it puts out protrusions of protoplasm, creates nodes and branches, and grows in the form of an interconnected network of tubes. As it explores the forest floor, it must constantly trade off the cost, efficiency and resilience of its expanding network.
Since the purpose of this activity is to link food sources together and to transport nutrients around the creature, Atsushi Tero at Hokkaido University in Japan and his colleagues wondered if slime-mould transport networks bore any resemblance to human ones. As they report in Science, they built a template with 36 oat flakes (a favoured food source) placed to represent the locations of cities in the region around Tokyo. They put P. polycephalum on Tokyo itself, and watched it go.
The behavior of the plasmodium “is really difficult to capture by words,” comments biochemist Wolfgang Marwan of Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg, Germany. (Credit: Science/AAAS)
TAGS : Tokyo, slime, Networks
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