Ah, mold. When we’re not breathing it in, wiping it out, or just walking all over it, it can do some pretty amazing things.
From what I’ve been able to gather, the slime mold grows through an evolutionary process while reaching for it’s food goal – it puts down plenty of tendrils and protein networks.
Those structures that reach food use it to grow stronger, reaching more food. Those networks that do not reach food eventually starve out. This is done without any sort of planning from the cell nucleus – there is no central planning, only local units obeying local rules, which is an important concept in modern evolutionary theory.
These qualities are now employed to solve mathematical problems in the “travelling salesman” category. Like, the Tokyo rail network. And the evolutionary qualities of the giant protist is perfect for this sort of work.
Of course, other studies have shown that slime mold can remember things, learning and adapting it’s own behavior to anticipated conditions.
I suppose I’ll have to get to training the bastards. They can get around, and you can see a spectacular time-lapse of them doing that here but I was unable to link directly to the video. Suffice it to say, it is badass.