Here’s some natural computation at the University of Oxford: using slime mold for efficient network planning. They selected a somewhat interesting test for efficiency, comparing the patterns of slime-mold tubes to the design of the Tokyo subway system.
The researchers distributed oat flakes in a pattern similar to the locations of major cities and turned the Physarum polycephalum loose in, as it were, downtown Tokyo. As the slime mold established its transport system, the resulting networks closely resembled design of the real-world human-engineered railways.
From their experiments, the researchers have developed a self-organizing mathematical model and simulation that I’d like to look at more closely.
The full text of the article “Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design” by Tero, et al. is, alas, behind a paywall, as is too much current research, though Science (the journal where it was published) does have a popular take , as do Wired and BoingBoing.
Photo credit: Science/AAAS