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Science Technology

Slime Mold Could Lead To Better Tech 179

FiReaNGeL writes to tell us that recent observation of slime mold could eventually lead the way to improved tech like better computer and communications networks. "This revelation comes after a team of Japanese and British researchers observed that the slime mold connected itself to scattered food sources in a design that was nearly identical to Tokyo's rail system. Atsushi Tero from Hokkaido University in Japan, along with colleagues elsewhere in Japan and the United Kingdom, placed oat flakes on a wet surface in locations that corresponded to the cities surrounding Tokyo, and allowed the Physarum polycephalum mold to grow outwards from the center. They watched the slime mold self-organize, spread out, and form a network that was comparable in efficiency, reliability, and cost to the real-world infrastructure of Tokyo's train network."
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Slime Mold Could Lead To Better Tech

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  • uh.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by igadget78 ( 1698420 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:09PM (#30862274)
    Were they high during this experiment?
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:16PM (#30862344) Journal
    Wake me up when it can complete and environmental impact assessment, defeat a coalition of concerned propertyholders suing because they don't want your "electrosmog" causing cancer, defeat a slimy local developer who really wants a route changed to improve the value of his land holdings, and then cajole the low-bidding contractor into actually building the network properly....

    I am, of course, mostly joking, natural systems(ants are the other one that gets mentioned a lot) have developed some quite efficient approaches to various problems. If a problem can be solved by a large number of rounds of iterative adjustment, evolution has probably solved it good and hard somewhere. That said, though, it would be a mistake to overestimate the value of having an efficient solution on your drawing board. You cannot build an efficient system without one; but it is very easy to build a downright pathological system even with one.
  • by AltGrendel ( 175092 ) <ag-slashdot&exit0,us> on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:23PM (#30862416) Homepage
    Maybe now they'll find an efficient solution to the Salesman problem. []
  • by RedTeflon ( 1695836 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:27PM (#30862470)
    In college 1 of my professors told us a story... A complex built several large buildings all on the same block. They didn't install any sidewalks or walkways just grass. They waited 1 year and looked at the grass. They built sidewalks wherever there was a path in the grass. The bigger the path the bigger the sidewalk. I thought it was an interesting idea. So many times I look back and try to wonder what the engineer/designer was thinking.
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:45PM (#30862646)
    I would guess not, since finding a "good" solution to TSP isn't hard at all, and nature usually doesn't bother expending 100x the resources to find the single "optimal" solution (which is practically meaningless anyways since the natural world is so dynamic. Has nature evolved the "optimal" human? If so, who is it?)
  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:47PM (#30862660)

    They waited 1 year and looked at the grass. They built sidewalks wherever there was a path in the grass.

    I saw this phenomenon as well when I was at USF and ODU back in the '80s.

    In a similar theme, I worked prep at Pizza Hut in high school and early college years and was told that Pizza Hut didn't do much research on site location, but simply put stores near McDonalds, as they did extensive research. Don't know if it's true, but there always seems to be a Pizza Hut near a McDonalds...

  • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @03:58PM (#30862778) Homepage Journal

    In the house tonight,
    Because of Frank Lloyd Wright.
    The bass goes boom like dynamite!

    Yo' Wright was a Modernist!
    Yeah, I know that all right?
    But you can't rhyme Bob Venturi with Dynamite.


    -MC Lars, Hurricane Fresh

    Sorry, I couldn't resist getting my postmodern laptop rap on.

  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:16PM (#30862956) Journal

    And its a lot less messy.

    Take two surfaces (overlapping, horizontally ) (cardboard will suffice, and place straws through them (verically)where your destinations are. Submerge it in soap/water solution. Then slowly pull it out and the surface tension will find the most efficient routes between the straws.

  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:18PM (#30862972) Journal

    It was probably true at one of them once, and if you're building a new campus today it's not a bad approach, but it's not clear where or when it actually originated.

    And if you've been around Frank Lloyd Wright buildings much, you'll hear lots of stories about how they leak unless you're really aggressive about maintenance, and if you're over about 5'6"" (167cm), you'll rapidly notice that the dude was short and didn't mind forcing taller people to duck in buildings he designed...

  • Re:Slimy competitors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by newcastlejon ( 1483695 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @04:59PM (#30863404)

    Ironically the wheel is one of the few things nature didn't invent first. There are beasties with magnets in their heads, some with electrical generators in their muscles, sophisticated echolocation etc. etc.. A wheel and axle may be beyond Mother Nature's reach, barring some amazing fluke.

    Still, reinventing the wheel isn't always such a bad thing; the first solution is rarely the optimal one.

I owe the public nothing. -- J.P. Morgan