University of California, Santa Cruz | 2020 Mar 10
The problem-solving prowess of a simple slime mold has been harnessed to trace the large-scale structure of the universe
A computational approach inspired by the growth patterns of a bright yellow slime mold has enabled a team of astronomers and computer scientists at UC Santa Cruz to trace the filaments of the cosmic web that connects galaxies throughout the universe.Dark Threads of the Cosmic Web Revealed (UCSC)
Their results ... provide the first conclusive association between the diffuse gas in the space between galaxies and the large-scale structure of the cosmic web predicted by cosmological theory.
According to the prevailing theory, as the universe evolved after the big bang, matter became distributed in a web-like network of interconnected filaments separated by huge voids. Luminous galaxies full of stars and planets formed at the intersections and densest regions of the filaments where matter is most concentrated. The filaments of diffuse hydrogen gas extending between the galaxies are largely invisible, although astronomers have managed to glimpse parts of them.
None of which seems to have anything to do with a lowly slime mold called Physarum polycephalum, typically found growing on decaying logs and leaf litter on the forest floor and sometimes forming spongy yellow masses on lawns. But Physarum has a long history of surprising scientists with its ability to create optimal distribution networks and solve computationally difficult spatial organization problems. ...
Slime Mold Simulations Used to Map Dark Matter Holding Universe Together
NASA | GSFC | STScI | HubbleSite | 2020 Mar 10
Astronomers Use Slime Mould to Map the Universe’s Largest Structures
ESA Hubble Science Release | 2020 Mar 10
Revealing the Dark Threads of the Cosmic Web ~ Joseph N. Burchett et al