This is an archived version of CCC's website. Please visit the new ccc website for the latest information.

Relevant Links

Press Release
Research Papers
Media Contact


distributed computing, networking, maximal independent set


feed icon

feed icon

feed icon


Fruit Fly Suggests New Solution to Computer Networking Problem

The fruit fly has evolved a method for arranging the tiny, hair-like structures it uses to feel and hear the world that's so efficient a team of U.S. and Israeli scientists says it could be used for distributed computing applications.

With a minimum of communication and without advance knowledge of how they are connected with each other, the cells in the fly's developing nervous system manage to organize themselves so that a small number of cells serve as leaders that provide direct connections with every other nerve cell, said author Ziv Bar-Joseph, associate professor of machine learning and computational biology at Carnegie Mellon University.

The result, the researchers report in the Jan. 14 edition of the journal Science, is the same sort of scheme used to manage distributed computer networks. But the method used by the fly's nervous system to organize itself is much simpler and more robust than anything humans have concocted.

"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.

Bar-Joseph, Alon and their co-authors - Yehuda Afek of Tel Aviv University and Naama Barkai, Eran Hornstein and Omer Barad of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel - used the insights gained from fruit flies to design a new distributed computing algorithm. They found it has qualities that make it particularly well suited for networks in which the number and position of the nodes is not completely certain. These include wireless sensor networks, such as environmental monitoring, where sensors are dispersed in a lake or waterway, or systems for controlling swarms of robots.

Ziv Bar-Joseph, Carnegie Mellon University
Noga Alon, Tel Aviv University and Institute for Advanced Study
Yehuda Afek, Tel Aviv University
Naama Barkai, Weizmann Institute of Science
Eran Hornstein, Weizmann Institute of Science
Omer Barad, Weizmann Institute of Science

Agencies/Institutions (that have supported the research):
Carnegie Mellon University, Tel Aviv University, Institute for Advanced Study, Weizmann Institute of Science, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation


Current Highlight | Past Highlights

Computing Research Highlight of the Week is a service of the Computing Community Consortium and the Computing Research Association designed to highlight some of the exciting and important recent research results in the computing fields. Each week a new highlight is chosen by CRA and CCC staff and volunteers from submissions from the computing community. Want your research featured? Submit it!.