Biological evaluation of Trans-African highways
1 Unconventional Computing Centre, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
2 Department of Computer Science, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Revised: 29 November 2012
Published online: 29 January 2013
The Trans-African highway network is a unique concept of integrated development of transport corridors spanning all African countries and providing landlocked countries access to seaports. The planned road system is still maturing and just partially complete, thus giving us a chance to play with different scenarios of its growth and to consider potential alternative transport networks. We study the evolving transport network in the African continent with a groundbreaking technique of imitating growing transport networks with slime mould Physarum polycephalum. We represent the major urban areas of Africa with a source of nutrients, inoculate a piece of the slime mould in Cairo and allow the mould to span all urban areas with its network of protoplasmic tubes. We then compare the slime mould networks with existing and planned highway corridors. We found that slime mould provides a good approximation of the Trans-African highway network, with some roads of Eastern Africa delineated by P. polycephalum in a larger number of laboratory experiments. We demonstrate direct matches between protoplasmic tubes and Trans-Sahelian as well as Lagos-Mombasa corridors. Finally we analyse the bio-logic of transport network development in families of generalised Physarum graphs.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2013