Slime Mould Grows Emergent Network Like Tokyo Rail System
A recently completed slime mould experiment by a team led by mathematical biologist Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University in Japan and cell biologist Mark Fricker of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom used Physarum polycephalum to find the shortest route through a layout of oak flakes. The slime discovers and grows over its food digesting it through its body creating thin tendrils that manifest into an ever simpler and efficient network of tubes. The tubes carrying the largest volume of nutrients expand while the less used contract and die off. The oat flakes were positioned on a diagram of Japan in the locations of major cities and the mould released into the map. In a period of twenty six hours the mould self organised into an efficient route layout that resembles the train network around Tokyo. The experiment was designed to use biology as a tool for determining the most efficient possible infrastructure network after human designers had struggled to find an answer. The team now wants to make a mathematical model that mimics the mouldâ€™s simple algorithms to apply to the design of real transit networks.
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