May 15, 2012

"If the Interstate System Were Designed by a Slime Mold."

"[T]he slime mold repeatedly created routes that were strikingly similar to the ones laid out by decades—and sometimes centuries—of human engineering."

20 comments:

Matt said...

This isn't all that surprising. We are effectively a collective organism that also specializes in efficiently moving things across space. We simply work on larger distance and time scales.

EDH said...

The brainless, seemingly unintelligent organism.

Practically a job description for the Secretary of Transportation.

gadfly said...

Which came first, the interstate highway pattern or the slime mold pattern?

I am not buying the slime mold theory simply because moving vehicles can only speed the mold flow and highways are already stamped like a circuit board.

edutcher said...

Animals will usually take the path of least resistance.

Humans, being smarter, will try to prove it by going the hard way. And, when faced with the fact that they're nowhere near as brilliant as they tell each other they are, they'll then quietly take the trails the animals use.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"If the Interstate System Were Designed by a Slime Mold."

...www.whitehouse.gov would add a note to President Eisenhower's biography reminding us that Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was also designed by a slime mold.

gadfly said...

@EDH says:

Practically a job description for the Secretary of Transportation.

Actually Ray LaHood is more properly referred to as the "Transformation Secretary" since he wants pothole-filled roadways to disappear in favor of more train tracks. He just has not yet figured out how to get people to the train stations.

Chip Ahoy said...

See how the slime fans out from points and fans fade turning into crooked lines that strengthen between points, all those millions of unsuccessful trials each dot in the fan the life of an organism. This puts me in mind of the long and tragic quest for the Northwest passage. Exactly the same except totally different.

Paddy O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paddy O said...

After commuting regularly on the 210 (I210) into Pasadena from eastern LA county, I firmly believe the slime mold would have done a much better job of freeway design.

After taking the 605 S to the 10 E interchange, it is quite clear that any sort of mold could have done a better job.

Pogo said...

Elizabeth Warren is 1/32nd slime mold, Harvard's first woman of cytoplasm.

wyo sis said...

Too bad slime mold wasn't available to route I 80 around Medicine Bow instead of Elk Mountain. How do they account for geography and climate with the slime mold map?

Maguro said...

The more highly evolved slime molds prefer to create routes similar to high speed choo-choo lines. True story.

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

A recent book, Design By Nature by Adrian Bejan, talks about how the design of things like a river delta and the human lung can look and function in very similar ways, like what's going on here, and comes up with the "constructal law" to explain it. Have just started it and haven't decided if he's really on to something or not, but it makes a nice footnote to this post.

(Been lurking for years - love the blog)

wyo sis said...

Lyle as a former lurker. I can tell you it gets addictive when you start to comment.

Sorun said...

"Strikingly similar" is subjective, but a good description if you want you silly experiment to seem interesting.

Get the slime mold to design better interchanges, and you'll have something.

Geoff Matthews said...

Maybe there is something about roads that attract slime molds?

Indigo Red said...

That's interesting; even slime molds seem to prefer Miami.

rhhardin said...

The principle of least action shows up all over.

It shows up a lot when millions of trials are done and add up to a common path.

Hagar said...

The individual projects of the interstate system were designed by engineers. The routes taken were not.

Crunchy Frog said...

After taking the 605 S to the 10 E interchange, it is quite clear that any sort of mold could have done a better job.

The 605 has some of the worst interchanges ever built. Cloverleafs where the incoming and outgoing traffic merge through each other were all the rage back when it was under construction. Combine that with the fact that they crammed it right up against the San Gabriel River (once a real river, now a 30-mile concrete obscenity) and you have a recipe for disaster.

Big rigs go off the side at the rate of about one per week.