Maze-solving slime mould

Date:26 April 2016 Author: Nikky Knijf

You don’t need to be a superbrain to solve mazes to find food, popular YouTube channels It’s Okay To Be Smart and Deep Look have demonstrated. They explain how a single-celled group of organisms called slime mould leaves chemical trails to mark dead ends, thereby remembering where it has already explored.

Several studies have shown that slime mould can match or better human problem-solving abilities. In a 2011 research paper, Andrew Adamatzky and Ramon Alonso-Sanz found that slime mould was able to establish transport network paths similar to those found in cities. Watch the video below to see this in action. (The team used oats to represent the cities.)
Adamatzky followed up this research by comparing the transport networks across the world using slime mould. He found that networks in Africa and the USA were less efficient. Chinese and Canadian networks were more efficient. Whether this has relevance for humankind is unclear.

Using slime mould to establish efficient routes is called biomimicry – a process whereby the manufactured world imitates Nature’s patterns and strategies.

To find out more about biomimicry, check out the April issue of Popular Mechanics, here.

First video credit: It’s Okay To Be Smart and Deep Look

Second video credit: PhysarumMachines

Image credit: Deep Look