Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Slime design mimics Tokyo's rail system: Efficient methods of a slime mold could inform human engineers

Date:
January 22, 2010
Source:
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Summary:
What could human engineers possibly learn from the lowly slime mold? Reliable, cost-efficient network construction, apparently: a recent experiment suggests that Physarum polycephalum, a gelatinous fungus-like mold, might actually lead the way to improved technological systems, such as more robust computer and mobile communication networks.

This is the network formation in Physarum polycephalum. (A) At t =0, a small plasmodium of Physarum was placed at the location of Tokyo in an experimental arena bounded by the Pacific coastline (white border) and supplemented with additional food sources at each of the major cities in the region (white dots). (B to F) The plasmodium grew out from the initial food source with a contiguous margin and progressively colonized each of the food sources. Behind the growing margin, the spreading mycelium resolved into a network of tubes interconnecting the food sources.
Credit: Image courtesy of Science/AAAS

What could human engineers possibly learn from the lowly slime mold? Reliable, cost-efficient network construction, apparently: a recent experiment suggests that Physarum polycephalum, a gelatinous fungus-like mold, might actually lead the way to improved technological systems, such as more robust computer and mobile communication 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.

The related report will be published by the journal Science on Jan. 22, 2010.

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.

"Some organisms grow in the form of an interconnected network as part of their normal foraging strategy to discover and exploit new resources," Tero writes in the report. "Physarum is a large, single-celled amoeboid organism that forages for patchily distributed food sources... [It] can find the shortest path through a maze or connect different arrays of food sources in an efficient manner with low total length yet short average minimum distance between pairs of food sources, with a high degree of fault tolerance to accidental disconnection."

The researchers knew that capturing the essence of this biological system in simple rules could be useful to inform the construction of self-organizing and cost-efficient networks in the real world. They captured the core mechanisms needed by the slime mold to connect its food sources in an efficient manner and incorporated them into a mathematical model.

Since the slime mold has been subjected to countless rounds of evolutionary selection, this formula based on its feeding habits might provide a route to more efficient and adaptive network designs for transportation and communication.

In a related Perspective, Wolfgang Marwan of Otto von Guericke University in Germany writes, "The model captures the basic dynamics of network adaptability through interaction of local rules, and produces networks with properties comparable to or better than those of real-world infrastructure networks... The work of Tero and colleagues provides a fascinating and convincing example that biologically inspired pure mathematical models can lead to completely new, highly efficient algorithms able to provide technical systems with essential features of living systems, for applications in such areas as computer science."

Tero and the other researchers say that their model provides a starting point for improving efficiency and decreasing costs for self-organized networks without centralized control, like remote sensor arrays, mobile ad hoc networks, and wireless mesh networks.

The slime mold just did what came naturally.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Association for the Advancement of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. Tero, S. Takagi, T. Saigusa, K. Ito, D. P. Bebber, M. D. Fricker, K. Yumiki, R. Kobayashi, T. Nakagaki. Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design. Science, 2010; 327 (5964): 439 DOI: 10.1126/science.1177894

Cite This Page:

American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Slime design mimics Tokyo's rail system: Efficient methods of a slime mold could inform human engineers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100121141051.htm>.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2010, January 22). Slime design mimics Tokyo's rail system: Efficient methods of a slime mold could inform human engineers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100121141051.htm
American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Slime design mimics Tokyo's rail system: Efficient methods of a slime mold could inform human engineers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100121141051.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Daimler kicks off a round of second-quarter earnings results from Europe's top carmakers with a healthy set of numbers - prompting hopes that stronger sales in Europe will counter weakness in emerging markets. Hayley Platt reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

Reuters - US Online Video (July 22, 2014) Ten years after releasing its initial report, members of the 9/11 Commission warn of the "waning sense of urgency" in combating terrorists attacks. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins