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Efficiency: Mould vs. Man

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Robert Burns wrote that the best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew, but Tokyo railway planners seem to have arranged things just right. Ed Yong on Not Exactly Rocket Science reports that Japanese researchers are exploring “better network design through biological principles,” by setting a “slime mould” cell loose on an in vitro model of the greater Tokyo area. Food sources in the wet dish simulated nearby cities, and slime-repellant light approximated mountains and other natural barriers. As the cell grew, latching onto food sources and refining its connections, it settled into a network nearly identical to the actual Tokyo rail system. So why risk laying schemes when a mindless organism will do it for you? But while efficiency comes naturally to Physarum polycephalum, we humans have to work a little harder for it. Sharon Astyk on Casaubon’s Book writes that it’s easy for people to “get confused about what matters and how much,” and offers ten ways to start doing more with less. And on The World’s Fair, Vince LiCata criticizes the plague of onboard computers that is making fridges and other appliances useless before their time; as Vince says, “some things need computer control, some things really just don’t.”

Links below the fold.

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