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Slime Is Smarter Than You Think

Researchers are looking at unexpected species for the intelligence to solve puzzles like finding the best route through a maze.

Like slime molds.

“Computers are not so good at analyzing the best routes that connect many base points because the volume of calculations becomes too large for them…but slime molds, without calculating all the possible options, can flow over areas in an impromptu manner and gradually find the best routes … Slime molds…can flexibly adjust themselves to a change of the environment and can create networks that are resistant to unexpected stimulus,” said Atsushi Tero from Kyushu University, in western Japan.


(Yellow slime mold )

The scientific agenda is focused on the slime’s cells, which appear to be able to process and optimize the growth pattern of the mold. These cells also avoid those forces that may damage them, such as light.

“The cells create the most direct root through a maze to a source of food … Humans are not the only living things with information-processing abilities … Simple creatures can solve certain kinds of difficult puzzles … If you want to spotlight the essence of life or intelligence, it’s easier to use these simple creatures,” said Toshiyuki Nakagaki from his laboratory in Hakodate, on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.

Yellow slime has been on planet for thousands of years, surviving on bacteria, decaying leaves and logs. Its ability to navigate a maze without a brain suggests a transport network design that scientists can learn much from.

Unlike most of us, Philip K. Dick easily identified species that had good prospects for intelligence. In his 1964 novel Clans of the Alphane Moon, Philip K. Dick wrote about an intelligent yellow slime mold:

"Wait," the slime mold said. "One item more; in exchange for my silence ... I would like a favor."

So there had been a catch to it. He was not surprised; after all, Lord Running Clam was a business-creature. The slime mold said, "I insist, Mr. Rittersdorf, that you take the job which Mr. Hentman is offering at this very moment."

"What about my job with the CIA? Chuck demanded. "You need not give that up; you can hold both jobs." The slime mold's thoughts were confident. "By um, moonlighting it."

"'Moonlighting.' Where did you get hold of that term?" "I am an expert on Terran society," the slime mold informed him. "As I envision it, you will hold the job with CIA by day, the job with Bunny Hentman by night. To accomplish this you will need drugs, thalamic stimulants of the hexo-amphetamine class, which are illegal on Terra. However I will provide them; I have contacts off this planet and can procure the drugs easily. You will need no sleep at all, once your brain metabolism has been stimulated by --"

From Asia News via our Friends at Frolix_8.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/15/2012)

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