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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Slime Mold

I remember a night in 1997. I had recently turned 17, and I was in med school, living in Goldstein College at the University of New South Wales. It was 2AM, and I was desperately, miserably trying to cram an entire biology syllabus into my head for a final exam the next morning. I hated the class (I hated med school) and had paid no attention all semester; I had skipped most of the lectures in favor of sleeping off all-night drinking and card games. The process of forcing hundreds of pages of dull knowledge into my brain in one evening had so defeated me, I was in tears.

And then ... then, in a small box on one page of the textbook, I learned about the slime mold. I can still clearly see the picture in the lower right corner: a tiny, nearly transparent wormlike creature formed from single-celled organisms that had come together like Voltron to move as one. And something indescribable happened to me. For a moment, I became delirious with love and awe for the slime mold. It was an uncontrollable manic happiness that pushed me out of my chair to skip about my room laughing. I wanted to tell the whole world about slime mold and how much I loved it. With renewed vigor, I kept studying and somehow I got a B+ in the exam.

And even though I quit med school not long afterward because I hated it so much, I still love slime mold, and I can't even explain why.

Anyway, now, apparently, other scientists perhaps afflicted with the same manic adoration are doing things like designing transportation systems and transforming computing with them.

You go, slime mold. You go.
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