“There is a slime mold known as Physarum polycephalum that lives in forests around the world. It feeds on various kinds of microscopic particles. As it forages for food, protoplasmic tubes of slime extend out and bifurcate like tree branches; whenever it happens upon a source of nutrients, it gathers into a bloblike formation. The whole thing — blobs connected by tubes — is a single organism, and the network serves to transport nutrients throughout its ‘body.’

An interesting fact about this slime mold is that it is highly intelligent — or at least it behaves as if it is. In locating food in its environment, it builds networks that have been shown to be optimally efficient in transporting the nutrients over the area in question. If placed in a maze, for instance, with a source of food outside the maze, the slime mold will discover the shortest path out.

The Japanese researcher Toshiyuki Nakagaki and his colleagues have demonstrated that the slime mold’s foraging behavior can be used to perform sophisticated computations, as long as the problems are represented spatially. Problems solved by the slime mold include not only the shortest path out of a maze, but also other complex mathematical challenges (like creating a Voronoi diagram and a Delaunay triangulation).”

–Andrew Adamatzky and Andrew Ilachinskin. “The Wisdom of Slime.” New York Times Sunday Review May 12, 2012. Web.

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