Friday, January 29, 2010

Slime Mold and rail links in Japan

Maybe a bit off topic but recently in the NY Times there was an interesting article that highlighted researchers in Japan have used slime mold (single-celled amoeboid organism) to grow networks which show high correspondence to the rail network in the area. around Tokyo. They did this by placing 36 bits of food in a pattern corresponding to cities in the Tokyo area and letting the slime mold grow from a spot corresponding to Tokyo.

The abstract for those interested in Science is:

"Transport networks are ubiquitous in both social and biological systems. Robust network performance involves a complex trade-off involving cost, transport efficiency, and fault tolerance. Biological networks have been honed by many cycles of evolutionary selection pressure and are likely to yield reasonable solutions to such combinatorial optimization problems. Furthermore, they develop without centralized control and may represent a readily scalable solution for growing networks in general. We show that the slime mold Physarum polycephalum forms networks with comparable efficiency, fault tolerance, and cost to those of real-world infrastructure networks—in this case, the Tokyo rail system. The core mechanisms needed for adaptive network formation can be captured in a biologically inspired mathematical model that may be useful to guide network construction in other domains."

Science 22 January 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5964, pp. 439 - 442

Read the full report in Science or in the NY Times

1 comment:

Adam said...

This sounds very fascinating