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We Think We're So Smart

>> Thursday, January 28, 2010

but nature usually has us beat.

Check out this article on what we can learn from slime mold regarding transportation system efficiency.

Slime molds, by the way, have got to be some of the coolest things in existence.  They were once considered fungi and do resemble fungi in that they reproduce by spores.  They also generally have an animal-like motile phase during which they feed and grow.  For some slime molds this involves an ameboid or flagellated swimming stage - that sounds remarkably critter-like, doesn't it? 

However, slime molds typically also have a more plant-like, nonmotile, phase during which they reproduce.  Some slime molds are ameba-like, ("cellular" slime molds), which are a whole bunch of cells that aggregate and flow together.  They can actually form a multicellular mass that sort of resembles a slug and crawls about in search of a location with that meets its heat and light needs.  Perhaps even cooler, check out this article on their ability to "learn" and measure time without any apparent brain.  At least not any brain we humble humans can see.

And yes, you can probably find a slime mold or two to observe right in your own back yard or favorite patch of woods or swamp.  Check out some great pictures of a whole variety of slime molds in a wonderful entry on the Squirrel's View blog from November.

If you hadn't already clicked on it, I also recommend the "10 Innovations Inspired by Nature" slide show that is on the slime mold article page.  All of these are interesting, but my favorites are the gecko (based solely on cuteness factor) and the lotus leaves.  Please, may I have an entire house fashioned out of something that has the dirt-repellant properties of lotus leaves??? 

Regarding #9 and the amazing ability of White Album beetle scales to appear brilliantly white, let's not use this innovation to develop tooth whitening technology as suggested, shall we?  Scaly teeth?  Really?  Humans will do anything for fashion and beauty!


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