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Conference Paper

Physarum Can Compute Shortest Paths


Bonifaci,  Vincenzo
Algorithms and Complexity, MPI for Informatics, Max Planck Society;


Mehlhorn,  Kurt
Algorithms and Complexity, MPI for Informatics, Max Planck Society;

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Bonifaci, V., Mehlhorn, K., & Varma, G. (2012). Physarum Can Compute Shortest Paths. In Y. Ravani (Ed.), Proceedings of the Twenty-Third Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (pp. 233-240). Philadelphia, PA: SIAM.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0014-BB81-8
Physarum Polycephalum is a slime mold that is apparently able to solve shortest path problems. A mathematical model has been proposed by biologists to describe the feedback mechanism used by the slime mold to adapt its tubular channels while foraging two food sources s_0 and s_1. We prove that, under this model, the mass of the mold will eventually converge to the shortest s_0-s_1 path of the network that the mold lies on, independently of the structure of the network or of the initial mass distribution. This matches the experimental observations by the biologists and can be seen as an example of a "natural algorithm", that is, an algorithm developed by evolution over millions of years.