Natural Computation Self-Organization

Computation with slime mold

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


Beautiful pictures of honeycomb formation

I am enchanted by these images of the process of honeycomb formation. An enterprising apiculturist put a glass bell over a hole in the top of a hive and took a series of photos as the bees extended their residence into the new atrium.

There’s been quite a bit of research on the self-organizing behaviors that result in these architectual patterns. For example, this paper by Belić, et al. describes how the workers build parallel combs hanging from the roof of an empty hive. It’s interesting to observe how the cylindrical chamber alters these dynamics, with the comb strands distributed relatively equally around the circumference.

Visit’s Curiosities for the full series.