The emergent virtues of Slime Moulds
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Oscillating between being a single creature and a democratic swarm the lowly but incredible slime mould, famed for being a paragon of emergent behaviour, can self-organise itself into a multitude of ultra aesthetic formations.
Englishrussia has an impressive selection of slime mould photographs to inspire and enthral – globular shapes coalescent into pristine geometric and organic multiforms.
Myriorama’s Myxomycetes Flickr set explores the non-linear dynamics of these gooey heterotrophs, revealing molecular chain formations, jellyfied glyphs, and protean branching structures. The latter mould, aside from being a contender for the queen of the forest catwalk, also has another impressive claim to fame. Physarum Polycephalum, also known as ‘the many headed slime’ can navigate a maze to find its own food.
‘Slime moulds are really groups of tiny amoeba which are normally sliding around the forest floor individually. Occasionally they will coalesce into a larger blob. There is no central commander telling the individual cells when to come together or disperse. Like ants, they use pheromone trails. The individual cells release pheromones based on their assessment of the conditions. Using a type of chemical democracy, when the pheromone trail gets intense enough the slime mould cells pile together to form a larger being.’
Click here to read more about how the slime mould can solve a maze.
Recently Physarum Polycephalum also courted some fame in the robotics world by being able to ‘control’ a simple six-legged robot. Sensing the slime’s chemical reaction to light the slimebot crawled away from light sources, becoming a ‘mechanical embodiment’ of the moulds intentions.