Image via video
Back in January, we showed you a project that highlighted the intelligence of mold - er, it's efficiency at finding food, at least. This efficiency was used in an experiment to figure out the best routes for transportation in Tokyo. Turns out, the way slime moved across an agar-gel is surprisingly similar to the roadways laid out in this major city. Doing a similar experiment in an agar-gel outlined like the US, concentrations of food were placed where major cities are located and slime mold was allowed to form its way from New York all the way to the west coast. Watching how the slime mold moves could help us build better transportation routes - and many other infrastructure routes - in the future. Popular Science writes, "Although the American map is just an illustrative model made for Popular Science, researchers in the U.K. have used slime mold to create similar replicas of local roads and railways, backed up by computer models. Andy Adamatzky and Jeff Jones, specialists in unconventional computing at the University of the West of England in Bristol, found that, left to its own devices, the slime mold mimicked a good part of the country's actual road systems. Because slime mold finds the paths that are most resilient to faults or damage, it could be used to make mobile-communication and transportation networks hardier."
Here is a video showing how the mold works its way across the US:
While the mold found the most direct paths to concentrated food sources in the video above, in the following video, a simulated slime mold spreads evenly, then concentrates its shape to the best food sources - the main cities are where the most food is found.
Similar analysis of the veins inside leaves are helping researchers figure out the best ways of transporting everything, even electricity distribution or water infrastructure. The trick is to have no single point of failure - there should be enough loops that if part of a structure is damaged, resources can still get to the destination via an alternate route. This kind of architecture we want to simulate also exists in the blood vessels of the retina, the structures of some corals, and even the veins of insect wings.
Imagine figuring out how to get something from here to there by letting slime mold show us the smartest routes, and then backing up the system by mimicking the veins of leaves. Now that is the brilliance of biomimicry!
And in case you still don't trust slime mold to find the shortest route between two places, check out this video of it solving a maze as it finds the fastest path to food:
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