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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Science Note/ Slime Mold

Air Date: Week of

The next generation of robots may not be sleek metallic bots zipping from task to task but rather, slippery, amorphous slime molds. Quincy Campbell reports.


YOUNG: It’s Living on Earth. I’m Jeff Young.

CURWOOD: And I’m Steve Curwood. Just ahead, just why do birds of a feather flock together? But first, this note on emerging science from Quincy Campbell.


New research about slime mold brings the realm of science fiction closer to science fact.
Scientists at the University of West England in the United Kingdon are developing a robot made of slime mold. In other words, these organisms are being programmed to move about!


The robot’s name is “Plasmobot”, which refers to the plasmodium of the slime mold – the spreading, web-like structure made of many unicellular creatures that move around as one. Slime molds are already known for their ability to seek out nutrients and move around obstacles, as well as transport objects. Now scientists are hooking the slime mold’s super-sensory smarts up to a computer.

Just like other robots, the plasmobot will be able to solve sophisticated tasks, like finding the shortest distance around an obstacle. This globular, fully-biological robot challenges conventional notions about computers, but it might also revolutionize medicine. Researchers say we may one day use nano versions of the plasmobot to perform treatments in the human body, such as targeted drug delivery. Their work blurs the line between artificial and biological intelligence, at the frontier of science where no man has gone before.


That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Quincy Campbell.



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