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What can slime molds offer computing?

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Slime molds may not have brains, but that isn't preventing some computer scientists from investigating them for their potential as novel, unconventional computers. A slime mold consists of a single cell containing millions of nuclei, and forms a network of protoplasmic tubes to move toward its food source along nearly the shortest paths. Since the challenge of finding the shortest path between two points is a much studied problem in computing, with applications in communication networks, robot path planning, and optimization, slime molds may hold some untapped potential for these areas.

In one of the latest studies in nature-inspired computing, Computer Science Professor Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England in Bristol has experimentally demonstrated that the spongy, yellow slime mold Physarum polycephalum can navigate on 3D terrains to approximate real roads. Although previous studies have shown that slime molds do this on 2D terrains, this is the first time it has been shown on 3D terrains. The research is published in a recent issue of IEEE Transactions on Cybernetics.

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