Blog Archives

How slime mold can design transportation networks and maybe even transform computing

By Biz Carson, http://gigaom.com

slime-mold-board-1

The yellow blobs of slime mold normally grow in dark forests, not on computer chips or on gelatinous squares shaped like the United States. But through his research, University of the West of England professor Andrew Adamatzky has shown that the mold can, and should, be grown elsewhere because of its potential in computing.

Physarum polycephalum is a brainless mold that’s sole purpose is to build transportation networks for the nutrients that sustain it. As it expands in search of food, it sends out slimy tubes that continue to branch out until it finds a food source, at which point it forms a blob around the nutrients. Its slime tubes then continue to grow and split until the mold forms a network of tubes to transport the food throughout itself.

The key to Physarum polycephalum’s computing power, however, is its ability to form the most efficient and optimal network.

Because it’s a self-repairing, living creature, it can also model emergency situations. So if a road was cut off due to flooding or an accident, the mold could also be suddenly cut off at that point and its resources redirected in another optimal way.

“By understanding how living creatures build transport networks, an urban planner would probably modify their approaches towards urban development and road planning,” Adamatzky said.

And while we may not see a petri dish of slime mold on an urban planner’s desk anytime soon, there are more practical applications of the mold when it comes to computing. Adamatzky wrote a book in 2010 where he defined the concept of Physarum machines: programmable, amorphous, living computing devices. Because the mold is sensitive to light and certain chemicals, the mold can be programmed to travel certain ways while still finding the optimal network. Read More

Snow mold popping up on lawns

It’s that time of year when things start to sprout up and grow.

But you might find an unwanted visitor on your lawn this spring: snow mold.

The fungus gets its name because it thrives underneath snow cover. So all the snow we got this past winter means the mold is popping up on more lawns than in past years.

The temperature underneath all that snow sits right around 30 degrees, the perfect conditions for which mold to grow, said Nate Devisser of Weed Man Lawn Care.

“Those are conditions that are prime for the fungus to grow in lawns: prolonged period of snow cover,” Devisser said.

The good news is, it’s not hurting your grass. Only in rare causes would the mold cause permanent damage.

It just looks bad.

“It looks like dead grass,” Devisser explained. “A lot of homeowners might panic and say, ‘Oh my goodness, my lawn died over the winter!'”

But there’s a simple fix to get rid of it: just rake it up.

“You just want to fluff it up,” he said.

But even though snow mold doesn’t hurt your lawn or plants, you’ll still want to take care of it as soon as possible in case someone in your family’s allergic to mold.

It can cause some serious symptoms, said Dr. Christina Barnes, an allergist with the South Bend Clinic.

“Runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing, sometimes stuffiness, drainage,” Barnes listed. “And if they have asthma, it can trigger asthma as well.”

Mold Controlled Robot is the stuff of Science Fiction and Nightmares

The wet summer months have seen a marked increase in mold throughout the country. Last month we shared a story about something called slime mold which was proving itself a nuisance to homeowners as it took over their yards.

At a recent Living Machines conference in London, researchers at the University of the West of England in Bristol shared a robotic face they had programmed to respond to electronic signals emitted by the spongy yellow blobs.

When the mold moves towards a food source, the robotic face registers a positive expression. When light is introduced and the mold recoils the face looks upset.

“The robot aspect was incorporated as a technology showcase, essentially to show that we can take data from biology and link it to robots,” the university’s Dr. Ella Gale said in a Huffington Post article . “We found that we could pick up and differentiate what the slime mold was doing in response to stimuli, such as light.”

Check out the video to see the robot respond to different stimuli, and possibly fuel a few of your upcoming nightmares.

The day slime mold invaded my front yard

English: Dog Vomit Slime Mold or Scrambled Egg...

English: Dog Vomit Slime Mold or Scrambled Egg Slime Fuligo septica, Family: Physaridae, Location: Germany, Biberach Deutsch: Gelbe Lohblüte oder Hexenbutter Fuligo septica, Familie: Physaridae, Fundort: Deutschland, Biberach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

By Jenny Marder, http://www.pbs.org

 

About a week ago, we noticed an intruder in our front yard — a vivid yellow, blob-like substance that appeared to be invisibly oozing across our garden mulch like the beginnings of a horror film. My first thought was, naturally, will it creep into the house through the windows, consume my family and then feed on our brains?

 

But upon further research, I discovered the culprit — slime mold. I had slime mold in my garden. And not just any kind of slime mold. The kind affectionately known as “dog vomit.”

 

Like any homeowner, I was thoroughly grossed out and wanted it gone. But like any decent journalist, I needed some pictures first. Plus, I had no idea what to do with the stuff. Was it dangerous? Was it harmful to touch? To breathe? So I took a trek to my local garden shop for guidance. Read More