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Slime mold a muse for science-minded designers

Design studio Nervous System uses computers to simulate natural processes and create unique designs. Slime mold has inspired tableware, and now fossilized octopus-kin yield jewelry.

Clockwise from upper left: A bracelet in the new Ammonite line; a custom 3D-printed lamp; the sort of ring you can customize using the Cell Cycle app; a detail of a lamp; a screenshot of the Cell Cycle app. Nervous System

Looking for a gift for that science-minded someone (or your science-minded self)?

MIT alums Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz (aka design studio Nervous System) recently announced a new line of jewelry -- "Ammonite" -- inspired by patterns found on the fossilized shells of ammonites, ancient relatives of the octopus.

Dendritic forms in a fossilized ammonite shell. Nervous System

Rosenkrantz, who studied biology and architecture, and Louis-Rosenberg, who studied mathematics, say they used "a simulation of dendritic solidification to make suture-like patterns" for the pieces. Wikipedia helpfully adds that "when materials crystallize or solidify under certain conditions, they freeze unstably, resulting in dendritic forms."

And Crave even more helpfully chimes in that the supertechnical translation of "dendritic forms" is "very-cool-looking fractally patterns which -- when worn on your wrists, earlobes, or around your neck -- will make you the envy of everyone at the Science Nerds Ball."

Using computers to simulate natural processes and yield unique designs is in keeping with Nervous Systems' other projects.

Past (and upcoming) products have included 3D-printed lamps and porcelain tableware "grown through a computer simulation of reaction-diffusion, a chemical patterning mechanism observed in a myriad of biological systems, from animal prints to slime molds." Yum, slime molds. But, hey, the products inspired by these humble molds are certainly lovely to behold.

Louis-Rosenberg and Rosenkrantz have even developed an app -- Cell Cycle -- that lets customers manipulate the duo's algorithms to create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. The app's easy and fun and you'll feel like a genius form-maker no time. (Nervous System recommends that you access the in-browser app while using Chrome).

Nervous System's prices would seem to accommodate a wide range of people, with rings for as little as $15, and lamps for as much as $1,400 (Louis-Rosenberg and Rosenkrantz say they're working on a number of new, and more affordable, lamp designs for next month's International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City).

The Ammonite pieces range from $40 to $95. They're made of stainless steel, mounted on acrylic.