Smart bugs inspire better robotics design

Last Updated: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 12:37

Tel Aviv: Bugs which collectively thrive in challenging environments are inspiring scientists to design smart robots for diagnostics and drug delivery, computers and artificial intelligence.

Doctoral student Adi Shklarsh, with her supervisor Eshel Ben-Jacob, professor at Tel Aviv University`s Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy, has uncovered how bugs gather information and find an optimal path to growth, even in trying terrains.

Bacteria aren`t the only organisms that travel in swarms, says Shklarsh. Fish, bees and birds also exhibit collective navigation, the journal Public Library of Science Computational Biology reports.

But as simple organisms with less sophisticated receptors, bugs are not as well-equipped to deal with large amounts of information in the complex environments they navigate, such as human tissue, according to a university statement.

But in a surprising find, researchers found that bacteria actually have superior survival tactics, finding "food" and avoiding harm more easily than swarms such as amoeba or fish. Their secret? A liberal amount of self-confidence.

Bacteria communicate differently, through molecular, chemical and mechanical means, and can avoid this pitfall.

"When an individual bacterium finds a more beneficial path, it pays less attention to the signals from the other cells. But at other times, upon encountering challenging paths, the individual cell will increase its interaction with the other cells and learn from its peers," says Ben-Jacob.

"Since each of the cells adopts the same strategy, the group as a whole is able to find an optimal trajectory in an extremely complex terrain," he adds.


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First Published: Friday, November 18, 2011 - 12:37

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