Computer Scientists Learn from Flies

Science Signaling  18 Jan 2011:
Vol. 4, Issue 156, pp. ec21
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.4156ec21

Designing distributed networks of computers that work together to solve a problem without any single processor receiving all of the inputs or observing all of the outputs represents a difficult problem. Afek et al. noted the similarity of this problem to the process of patterning of sensory bristles on the fruit fly. By studying the developmental process in the fly and modeling its mechanism, the authors derived an algorithm that works efficiently to solve the computer science problem of identifying what is known as a “maximal independent set” that may prove useful in the design of wireless networks.

Y. Afek, N. Alon, O. Barad, E. Hornstein, N. Barkai, Z. Bar-Joseph, A biological solution to a fundamental distributed computing problem. Science 331, 183–185 (2011). [Abstract] [Full Text]