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Behold, the Worm Blob and Its Computerized Twin


A blackworm blob under a microscope.

It only takes around 10 worms to form a coherent blob. There is no known limit to how many worms can form a blob.

Credit: Harry Tuazon/Bhamla Lab at Georgia Tech

A multi-institutional team of scientists devised a computer model for the study of worm blob dynamics.

Certain worms entangle themselves into blobs to collectively evade predators or stressors like heat and light.

The University of Colorado Boulder (CU)'s Chantal Nguyen programmed a model of individual and blobbed California blackworms, adding an attachment force that spurred the simulated worms to cohere into a two-dimensional blob.

When early prototypes proved uncooperative, Nguyen tuned the worms' stickiness and the strength of their individual propulsion until she found an optimum point where the blob could move as one.

CU's Orit Peleg said the model demonstrates that "there isn't this clear-cut divide" between living and nonliving materials, adding that she and her colleagues hope it might inspire entangled robots made from flexible materials.

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


 

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