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Slime moulds prefer right turns (new study)

Slime moulds (Physarum polycephalum for example) are quite dexterous when it comes to solving complex 2-D puzzles – their skills having been documented in research which led to the double Ig Nobel prizes (2008 & 2010) awarded to Toshiyuki Nakagaki [full details via here]. Now a new study performed by Alice Dimonte and Victor Erokhin (IMEM-National Research Council, Parma, Italy), Andrew Adamatzky (Unconventional Computing, UWE, Bristol, UK) and Michael Levin (Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA) have made a discovery that could, if replicated, have large scale implications for those involved in such fields. Slime moulds strongly prefer right turns.

In a series of 120 experiments in which moulds made their way up a T-shaped junction, the team found that they turned right in no less than 74% of trials. As yet, the team don’t have a firm explanation for the phenomenon, and call for further research to clarify :

“[…] the role of gravity and other geophysical parameters (such as geomagnetic field, hemisphere location, etc.) in this phenomenon remains to be explicitly tested in Physarum asymmetry.”

See: On chirality of slime mould  BioSystems, 140 (2016) 23–27.

Also see: Which way do sheep turn? [JER research] Improbable Research, May 2012.

And: ‘Ants show a leftward turning bias when exploring unknown nest sites’ Biology Letters, December 2014.

Coming soon: Can Physarum  successfully apply its embodied intelligence to rationalise motorway topology?

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