A single-cell organism is helping astronomers and school kids alike to understand space. The Blob, formally known as Physarum polycephalum, is a type of single-cell slime mold that has fascinated scientists for years. It can heal itself, smell and find food, and even solve mazes. It also has more than 700 sexes. Now, it has gone to space.
Astrophysicists and computer scientists used slime mold behavior to create an algorithm that can simulate the growth of dark matter filaments in the universe. They then took their trained AI and applied it to real data for over 37,000 galaxies. The algorithm was able to produce a three-dimensional map of the underlying cosmic network that astrophysicists hope to use in the future to model how distant galaxies interact. The results were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“It’s quite amazing to see that the virtual slime mold gives you a very close approximation in just minutes,” said Oskar Elek, a computational media scientist at UC Santa Cruz who worked on the project, in a statement. “You can literally watch it grow.”
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