Designing highways the slime mould way

From New Scientist: Designing highways the slime mould way


Jeff Jones and Andrew Adamatzky, specialists in unconventional computing at the University of the West of England in Bristol, wondered if biology could provide an alternative to conventional road planning methods. To find out, they created templates of the UK using a sheet of agar on which they marked out the nine most populous cities, excluding London, with oat flakes. Then, in the place of London, the pair introduced a colony of P. polycephalum, which feeds by spawning tendrils to reach nutrients, and recorded the colony’s feeding activity (see picture).
Most of the resulting “maps” mimicked the real inter-city road network, but some offered new routes. For instance, the motorway between Manchester and Glasgow passes along the west coast of the UK, but the slime mould preferred to travel east to Newcastle and then north to Glasgow ( /arxiv.org/abs/0912.3967 ). “This shows how a single-celled creature without any nervous system – and thus intelligence in the classical sense – can provide an efficient solution to a routing problem,” says Jones.

Hong Kongers protest $7.1B high-speed rail link to China, question legislature’s democracy | StarTribune.com

From the AP (via Strib) Hong Kongers protest $7.1B high-speed rail link to China, question legislature’s democracy


[A] $55 billion Hong Kong dollar ($7.1 billion) project to link Hong Kong to a national [Chinese] high-speed rail network has run into a growing protest movement analysts say stems from the lack of democracy in this wealthy former British colony of 7 million people.
Hundreds protested in a public square next to Hong Kong’s legislature last week as lawmakers debated the proposed rail link to the southern Chinese city Guangzhou. Several hundred camped out in the square again on Friday.
Demonstrators object to the project because it would force many residents to relocate and could cause major traffic congestion and other environmental problems. They also question the economic benefits touted by the government and say the approval process has been clouded by conflicts of interest of some lawmakers linked to industries and companies that could profit from the project.