Approximating Mexican highways with slime mould
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- Adamatzky, A., Martínez, G.J., Chapa-Vergara, S.V. et al. Nat Comput (2011) 10: 1195. doi:10.1007/s11047-011-9255-z
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Plasmodium of Physarum polycephalum is a single cell visible by unaided eye. During its foraging behavior the cell spans spatially distributed sources of nutrients with a protoplasmic network. The geometrical structure of the protoplasmic networks allows the plasmodium to optimize transport of nutrients between remote parts of its body. Assuming major Mexican cities are sources of nutrients that need to be distributed across Mexico, how much does the structure of the Physarum protoplasmic network correspond to the structure of Mexican Federal highway network? To address the issue we undertook a series of laboratory experiments with living P. polycephalum. We represent geographical locations of major cities (19 locations) by oat flakes, place a piece of plasmodium in the area corresponding to Mexico city, record the plasmodium’s foraging behavior and extract topology of the resulting nutrient transport networks. Results of our experiments show that the protoplasmic network formed by Physarum is isomorphic, subject to limitations imposed, to a network of principal highways. Ideas and results in the paper may contribute towards future developments in bio-inspired road planning.