Slime mould mimics Tokyo's railway
Added: Sat, 23 Jan 2010 00:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Stephen for the link.
A single-celled slime mould mindlessly foraging for food can create a network as efficient as the Tokyo rail system, researchers say.
A team of Japanese and British researchers say the behaviour of the amoeba-like mould could lead to better design of computer or communication networks.
The slime mould Physarum polycephalum grows to connect itself to food sources as part of its normal behaviour.
The mould "can find the shortest path through a maze or connect different arrays of food sources in an efficient manner," wrote Atsushi Tero of Hokkaido University and his colleagues in this week's issue of Science.
The researchers noticed that the slime mould spreading to gather scattered food sources organizes itself into a gelatinous network that interconnects the sources and looks somewhat like a railway system.
To emphasize this similarity, they placed oat flakes on a wet surface in locations corresponding to Tokyo and cities in the surrounding area and let the slime mould loose.
The resulting slime network bore a striking similarity to a simplified layout of the extensive railway network that exists around Greater Tokyo.