Some Nerves: How Fruit Flies Could Improve Computing

The simple yet sophisticated nervous system cells in the bodies of fruit flies are being used as a model that could make wireless sensor networks and other distributed computing systems work better.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have published their findings on this topic in the Jan. 14 issue of the journal Science in an article titled: A Biological Solution to a Fundamental Distributed Computing Problem.

As outlined by CMU, it is the fruit fly's nerve cells and the tiny bristles with which they communicate with to feel and hear that offer a model for improved networks. The nerve cells have a way of organizing themselves for communication that does not involve every cell having to connect directly with ever other one or know its whereabouts.MORE RESEARCH: NSF says time for an Internet do-over

"It is such a simple and intuitive solution, I can't believe we did not think of this 25 years ago," said co-author Noga Alon, a mathematician and computer scientist at Tel Aviv University and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., according to a statement on the CMU website. Ziv Bar-Joseph, Yehuda Afek, Naama Barkai, Eran Hornstein and Omer Barad are the other researchers, whose work on a new distributed computing algorithm was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Many researchers are hot on the trail of solutions to the puzzling challenges presented by distributed networks, especially wireless sensor networks. IDG News Service reported earlier this week on efforts by researchers at MIT and in Israel into finding ways around network bottlenecks caused by random packet distribution in ad hoc systems.

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