A single-celled slime mold (physarum polycephalum) can solve mazes, mimic the layout of man-made transportation networks and choose the healthiest food from a diverse menu – and all this without a brain or nervous system:
Lesson: deploy resources efficiently – really smart solutions often arise naturally, yet knowing what’s best still requires lots of prior research. But hey, if a slime mold can do it…
Scientists have created an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart:
Lesson: even the most difficult concept can be somehow ‘brought to life’ – be it in a new context, through the addition of a couple of key ingredients, or sheer appliance of science!
A simple plus/minus 1V signal from a beat-heavy song can be used to stimulate the motor neurons in the leg of a cockroach. This is an example of such.
Using setups like this can help us understand how neurons and muscles work, and can assist us in understanding our own nervous systems.
I’ll tell you what else this helped me understand: we’ve reached such mastery of nature that we’re now just having fun with it. I’m not sure if this is good or bad, but the above example is certainly a bit macabre.
Saw something pretty cool on Boing Boing just now – a short film demonstrating how mathematic principles manifest in nature. It’s something you’ll all have heard about, but the below actually shows you the background, and does so in a really lovely way.
Top marks to filmmaker Cristobal Vila for making Fibonacci, Golden and Angle Ratios, Delaunay Triangulation and Voronoi Tessellations look so darn good.
His website goes further into exploring these ideas:
This section is meant to be a complement to the animation, in order to better understand the theoretical basis that you can find behind the sequences. It was also, more or less, the appearance of the screenplay in the days that I was planning this project.
And goes on to provide great explanations like this:
We add a first red seed
Add a second green color seed and make the previous traveling to the center.
Turn other 137.5º
Add a third ocher seed and make the previous traveling to the center, to stay side by side with the first one
Turn other 137.5º…
…and so on, seed after seed, we will obtain gradually a kind of distributions like the ones you have in the following figures
This leads to the characteristic structure in which all seeds are arranged into a sunflower, which is as compact as possible. We have always said: nature is wise 🙂