The Emergent Virtues of Slime Molds
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Oscillating between being a single creature and a democratic swarm the lowly but incredible slime mold can self-organize itself into a multitude of ultra-aesthetic globular geometries.
Myxomycetes Flickr set explores the non-linear dynamics of these gooey heterotrophs, revealing molecular chain formations, jellyfied glyphs, and protean branching structures. The latter mold has an impressive claim to fame. Physarum Polycephalum, also known as ‘the many headed slime’ can navigate a maze to find its own food.
‘Slime molds 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 mold cells pile together to form a larger being.’
Click here to read more about how the slime mold 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 mould’s intentions.