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Could slime save Sydney?

15 September 2016
What we can learn from natural infrastructure systems

Can ants, bees and slime moulds build better infrastructure networks than us? 

Dr Tanya Latty

Discover what natural systems can tell us about building better infrastructure when Dr Tanya Latty presents her free Sydney Science Forum talk– Nature’s Engineers – on Wednesday 21 September.  

Despite having tiny brains, ants build efficient transportation systems, manage complex supply chains, and have effective communication networks. Even brainless slime mould amoebas can design transportation networks that are as efficient as those built by human engineers. 

Like human designed infrastructure systems, natural systems must stand up to a slew of disruptions from targeted attacks, to traffic jams, to natural disasters. Unlike human designs, natural infrastructure systems have had millions of years to evolve solutions.

Dr Latty, a biologist working in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, will share her research on ant, bee and slime mould infrastructure systems and how she is working with mathematicians, computer scientists and civil engineers to translate animal and slime mould behaviour into solutions for building better, more resilient human infrastructure systems.

We could learn from ants, slime moulds and bees when it comes to designing complex infrastructure systems, because they have been doing it for so long
Dr Tanya Latty

“Our modern infrastructure systems – like electricity supply, roads, and train networks – are fragile because they are complex, decentralised and interconnected. So if there is a failure in one small part of the network, it can cause massive outages,” explained Dr Latty.

“Ants, bees and slime moulds also create complex, decentralised and interconnected systems, but have found ways to build robust systems. We can consider the research in this area as a biological toolbox, that can help us with our infrastructure design challenges.” 

Discover just how sophisticated our ant, bee and slime mould friends are in this fascinating free public talk. After Dr Latty’s talk, enjoy hands-on activities and demonstrations run by the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment. 

Nature's Engineers

Free public lecture

Wednesday 21 September 2016
5.45pm - 7.00pm
Eastern Avenue Auditorium, Eastern Ave, Camperdown Campus
Free
Register

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