A time lapse image of a developing slime mold network. By watching this growth, physicists hope to better understand the analogous development of transportation networks.
Image Credit: American Physical Society/Adrien Fessel et al.
To maximize their ability to find and transport food, slime molds can quickly develop branching networks like the one seen above. Despite their name, slime molds are surprisingly clever; they have exhibited learning capabilities and even solved mazes with their tubular networks. For this image, scientists captured the growth of the Physarum polycephalum slime mold atop a bed of nutrients for 24 hours. Researchers looking at the early stages of a slime mold's network development hope to gain insights into the evolution of transportation networks (e.g. planes, trains and automobiles).
Physics research behind this image
A Physics Buzz Blog post connecting slime mold and trade networks