The humble slime mold Physarum polycephalum is being used to advance computer game animations by a U.K. scientist.
Neither a fungus nor an animal, the slime mold has a complex life cycle consisting of fruiting bodies, spores, and amoeba-like cells with many nuclei. It inhabits the forest floor where it feeds on microscopic particles.
Described as a plasmodium in the foraging stage, P. polycephalum moves around with seemingly high intelligence, producing a network of tubes that follow the most efficient route for transporting nutrients across an area.
Such problem-solving abilities can help to generate calculations for realistic computer graphics because the more efficient the calculations, the more realistic the animation.
Andrew Adamatzky from the International Center of Unconventional Computing at the University of the West of England has been borrowing wisdom from this slime mold to solve a classical problem in modern computational geometry: computing a polygon that defines a set of planar points.
“Plasmodium’s foraging behavior can be interpreted as computation, when data are represented by spatial configurations of attractants and repellents, and results by structures of protoplasmic network,” writes Adamatzky in his new paper.
He used Kalms sleeping tablets to create an environment of attractants and repellents for P. polycephalum grown in polystyrene petri dishes with oat flakes for food.
The tablets have a dual effect on the slime mold. It is attracted to the valerian and hops extracts over a long distance, but there is a short-distance repellent effect, probably due to slowly diffusing ingredients like titanium dioxide and sucrose.
The spinoff is that the organism creates a tube network with the polygon outlines of the attractant points.
“When presented with a half-pill of the Kalms tablets the plasmodium propagates toward the pill and forms, with its protoplasmic tubes, a circular enclosure around the pill,” Adamatzky writes.
Adamatzky believes this research will help develop a parallel embedded computer processor that uses nonlinear chemical media for computations, instead of standard components like silicon chips, and even amoeboid robots.
The study was published in the International Journal of Bio-Inspired Computation on June 7.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.