Bizarre slime mold behavior used to map hidden web of dark matter

Bizarre slime mold behavior used to map hidden web of dark matter

by Abrar Al-Heeti, c|net

Slime mold may be one of Earth’s “simplest” life forms, but it’s providing a new way to learn about the universe.

Researchers are using the behavior of slime mold, a strange, single-celled organism, to help map the web of dark matter filaments which make up our universe. Scientists designed a computer algorithm inspired by the unique creature to try to trace the cosmic web, which is “the large-scale backbone of the cosmos,” according to a NASA press release. They applied the algorithm to data that had the positions of 37,000 galaxies, which then created a 3D map of the cosmic web’s “intricate filamentary network.”

Slime mold is a curious organism — one that inspires a lot of interest from scientists and even the Paris Zoo. The blind, single-celled creature can build filamentary networks in a hunt for food, optimizing the pathways it takes in its search. Remarkably, they lack a “brain” but slime molds are able to perform incredible feats like finding the shortest path through a maze.

And strangely enough, the networks it builds resemble the web that gravity makes in shaping the universe, linking galaxies and clusters of galaxies along invisible bridges, hundreds of millions of light-years long.

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