Scientists use slime mold to trace the filaments of the cosmic web, A computational approach inspired by the growth patterns of a bright yellow slime mold has enabled a team of astronomers.
According to the prevailing theory, as the universe evolved after the big bang, matter became distributed in a web-like network of interconnected filaments separated by huge voids.
Luminous galaxies full of stars and planets formed at the intersections and densest regions of the filaments where matter is most concentrated.
The filaments of diffuse hydrogen gas extending between the galaxies are largely invisible, although astronomers have managed to glimpse parts of them.
But Elek, who has always been fascinated by patterns in nature, had been impressed by the Physarum “biofabrications” of Berlin-based artist Sage Jenson. so, now the scientists use slime mold to trace the filaments of the cosmic web.
Starting with the 2-dimensional Physarum model Jenson used (originally developed in 2010 by Jeff Jones), Elek and a friend (programmer Jan Ivanecky) extended it to three dimensions and made additional modifications to create a new algorithm they called the Monte Carlo Physarum Machine.
Burchett gave Elek a dataset of 37,000 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), and when they applied the new algorithm to it, the result was a pretty convincing representation of the cosmic web.
That was kind of a Eureka moment, and I became convinced that the slime mold model was the way forward for us, Burchett said.
A slime mold creates an optimized transport network, finding the most efficient pathways to connect food sources.
In the cosmic web, the growth of structure produces networks that are also, in a sense, optimal. The underlying processes are different, but they produce mathematical structures that are analogous.
Of course, a strong visual resemblance of the model results to the expected structure of the cosmic web doesn’t prove anything. The researchers performed a variety of tests to validate the model as they continued to refine it.
Until now, the best representations of the cosmic web have emerged from computer simulations of the evolution of structure in the universe, showing the distribution of dark matter on large scales, including the massive dark matter halos in which galaxies form and the filaments that connect them. scientists use slime mold to trace the filaments of the cosmic web.
Dark matter is invisible, but it makes up about 85 percent of the matter in the universe, and gravity causes ordinary matter to follow the distribution of dark matter.
Starting with 450,000 dark matter halos, we can get an almost perfect fit to the density fields in the cosmological simulation.
Now the team had a predicted structure for the cosmic web connecting the 37,000 SDSS galaxies, which they could test against astronomical observations. Scientists use slime mold to trace the filaments of the cosmic web
For the first time now, we can quantify the density of the intergalactic medium from the remote outskirts of cosmic web filaments to the hot, dense interiors of galaxy clusters.
These results not only confirm the structure of the cosmic web predicted by cosmological models, they also give us a way to improve our understanding of galaxy evolution by connecting it with the gas reservoirs out of which galaxies form.
Researcher said, I think there can be real opportunities when you integrate the arts into scientific research, Creative approaches to modeling and visualizing data can lead to new perspectives that help us make sense of complex systems.