Skip to comments.What Slime Mold Can Teach Us About Fixing Our Highways
Posted on 02/24/2014 2:31:00 PM PST by nickcarraway
USING BIOMIMICRY, URBAN PLANNERS COULD LEARN HOW TO BUILD BETTER NETWORKS OF ROADS AND RAILWAY LINES BY LOOKING AT THE SUPER-EFFICIENT "MANY-HEADED SLIME."
Compared to mold, humans know next to nothing about creating efficient networks. The single-celled organism Physarum polycephalum, a slime mold, grows outward in search of food, optimizing along the way to make its network of branches the shortest, quickest, and strongest paths to where it wants to go--even in a maze.
Researchers are beginning to learn how our own networks--like those of railways and roads--might be improved by watching how the so-called many-headed slime behaves under the same circumstances, extrapolating clues as to how to ease congestion and forge better routes between cities and stations.
Image: Physarum polycephalum plasmodium via Wikipedia Andrew Adamatzky, a professor at the University of the West of England in Bristol, has used slime mold to map roadways for cities all over the world, with pieces of oatmeal representing major urban areas. For instance, heres how slime suggests we should connect the roads of the Iberian peninsula:
Salt is toxic to the mold, so it can be used to model what should happen when things go wrong, like when theres a highway pileup or flooded road. When the mold detects salt, it strengthens other networks or reroutes in response, providing insight into how transportation planners might prepare a contingency plan.
Biomimicry, the study of biological systems applied to complex human problems, is a useful tool for reexamining how our cities function. Humans have only been building cities for thousands of years. Slime molds have been doing their thing for at least millions of years--maybe even a billion. We could learn a thing or two from them.
Okay, I’ll bite. What’s obama saying now?
Now that pic,,,,, is makin’ me hungry!
Really when you get down to it that IS how we build highways, it just takes us a lot longer.
So, I guess that would eliminate the use of road salt during the winter.
The Profs in England have a lot of time on their hands.
The things, the natural market based development within geological and other constraints did a good job.
The point he’s making is valid, but he doesn’t seem to realize that’s how it has been done.
Only if the road is paved in slime mold...
My daughter worked on a fascinating project using physarum in University... amazing how it finds the most efficient route anywhere.
Looks like the biggest slime is in the Washington D.C. area.
Exactly - the whole thing is about feedback mechanisms. And that’s what the “hidden hand” of economics is all about (the reall hidden hand, not the hidden hand of hidden controllers).
Besides, mathematical feedback modelling in computer science is a whole field. I don’t see the point of working with slime molds unless their behaviors can be modelled mathematically and then compared to other models.