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Slime moulds use a form of spatial "memory" to navigate, despite not having a brain, a study has found.Scientists in Australia… found that the slime mould could navigate around a U-shaped maze to a food source, using their slimy deposits."A slime mould is not a fungus or mould, but is in fact a protist, which is really the odds and ends of the natural world that don't fit in with the rest of our taxonomic grouping system," said PhD student Christopher Reid who led the study.Mr Reid and colleagues form the University of Sydney, Australia, set out to test its navigational abilities.… They placed a U-shaped trap between the slime mould and its food source …"The whole organism is made up of bits of pulsating tissue, which are constantly expanding and contracting, using a similar mechanism to our own muscle cells," explained Mr Reid. "The pulsating parts are also influenced by the throbbing of their neighbours within the cell, which means that they can communicate with each other. In their experiment, Mr Reid and colleagues observed the slime mould exploring the dish, leaving a trail of slime behind wherever it went.They found that the slime mould did not revisit areas it had already investigated. "In essence, the slime mould is memorising where it has been - storing this memory in the external environment and recalling the information when it later touches the slime-coated area," said Mr Reid.Of the moulds tested, 96% successfully found their way to the sugary substance, taking on average 57 hours to do so. But when researchers covered the whole dish in slime only 33% were able to reach their goal within the 120-hour time limit."For a single-celled organism, it has continually surprised researchers with its abilities, such as solving mazes, anticipating periodic events, and even making irrational decisions like we do," he told BBC Nature."It is truly a remarkable creature that is redefining our notions of 'intelligence'."
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