To gain efficient access to food placed at nodes that corresponded to the arrangement of rail stations in Tokyo, a slime mold colony (A) self-organized into a pattern that emulated the rail network (B) to an astounding degree. Simplified models of the slime mold colony (C) and rail network (D) are shown for comparison, as well as the minimum spanning tree (E) and the tree with additional connections (F). From Tero, A., S. Takagi, T. Saigusa, et al. 2010. “Rules for bio-logically inspired adaptive network design.” Science, 327(5964), 439-442. Used with permission. tain cases to form colonies and behave as a cohesive unit, and the researchers harnessed this phenomenon to explore effi-cient railway network designs. On a map of the greater Tokyo area, the researchers placed food at points that corresponded to the locations of major rail stations in Tokyo and the sur-rounding region, and then they inoculated the map with slime mold. Slime mold colonies behave like superorganisms and act in a coordinated fashion, rather than every cell for itself. In this case, the colony formed a network that emulated the Japanese rail system with astounding accuracy. Tero and his colleagues concluded that the simple mathematical model resulting from the experiment could prove useful for popula-tion-based metaheuristics, such as particle swarm optimiza-tion and genetic algorithms, which provide high-level decision-making for diverse applications, from programming robotic swarms to arranging environmental sensor layouts. In 2015, Airbus began employing biologically inspired algorithms, inspired by the growth patterns of slime mold colonies and bones, to 3D print lightweight aircraft compo-nents. These different organic entities develop meshed arrangements that maximize connectedness in favor of food availability and for structural integrity, respectively, while minimizing the fill area and volume (i.e., resource expendi-ture). These lattice patterns can be altered, such that the dura-bility of printed objects can be optimized at different densities. These improvements to Airbus’ manufacturing process have increased fuel efficiency without compromising structural integrity. A missed opportunity During NASA’s Apollo era in the 1960s, Grumman aero-space engineer Thomas J. Kelly designed a Lunar Module that enabled twelve astronauts to land on and ascend from the Moon over six missions. Kelly iterated many design concepts for the Lunar Module before arriving at the ingenious design made famous with the first manned landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on 20 July 1969. That same year, three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “for their discoveries concerning the replica-tion mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses.” Unknown to Kelly, the design of the Lunar Module reflected the structure of a bacteriophage, one of the most prevalent entities in the biosphere. If Kelly had been familiar with the virus, the lengthy design process might have been expedited. Mutation and speciation are the biological manifestations of ideation, in which form follows function. Biomimicry every day These examples are just a few of the inventions that have resulted from 3.8 billion years of research and development conducted by life on Earth. Natural selection is affected by a multitude of stressors and fueled by randomness, so the ele-gance and parsimony with which nature iterates result in RESOURCE May/June 2016 5 Tokyo Metro subway underground transport map. © Tktktk | Dreamstime.com.