*Mycelia* explores the beauty and intricacy of mycelium.
Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branched, thread-like hyphae. In addition to playing a crucial role in the growth and reproduction of fungi, it also seems to interweave with nature at large.
*Mycelia* takes place in a similar domain to my previous works centered around the connection between math, music, art, and nature. What can we learn from nature's generative processes, and how could these be used in a digital environment? It is fascinating how something that seems to be such a simple algorithm can achieve such tremendous results.
#### The Algorithm
In a similar way to the mycelium we find in nature, my virtual mycelia grows by extending its hyphae, absorbing nutrients, and breaking them down into energy. As the mycelium grows and matures, it forms a network of interconnected hyphae.
In a simplified way, every hypha has a core algorithm with the following instructions:
1. Absorb nutrition from the soil and convert it into energy.
2. Use the energy to move one step forward. Does the new position contain more of the nutrition it needs? If yes, repeat step 1, otherwise go to step 3.
3. Divide into two new hyphae growing slightly to the left and right to increase the chance to find more nutrition.
On top of the core algorithm, a few other things could happen:
- There are different kinds of nutrients. A hypha can only focus on one kind at a time. But if it travels long distances, its DNA can change to absorb another kind of nutrient. This opens up more complicated networks and surprising outcomes.
- The angle used when a hypha divides could sometimes change to be wider or narrower, always with the goal of optimizing the nutrient intake.
- When the hypha collides with another branch in the network, they grow together. But there is also a chance that it could cross a branch depending on the difference in age between the branches. Think of it like it grows slightly up or down, which makes it possible to pass over or under a branch.
- There is a survival mechanism that is triggered when only a few hyphae exist in the network, which can force it to cross its own branches.
A challenge with the project was how to achieve an aesthetic outcome that could please the eye. The solution was to find a way to generate the amount and position of nutrients in the ground. Influenced by how sound spreads through the air, the nutrients spread from a single point and are being pushed out in wave-shaped circles over time. The waves are built synthetically by mixing sine waves with different frequencies and amplitudes. This gives each layer of nutrients its own characteristics and rhythm.
To describe the age of the hypha, it changes color over time. When it's young, it picks the first color in the palette, and over time it gradually changes color until it reaches the end of its lifecycle.
As you venture deeper into the world of *Mycelia* you'll feel a sense of magic and wonder begin to envelop you. You'll be transported to a realm where the boundaries between the natural and digital worlds blur, and the true power of mycelium is revealed.