This story was in Friday’s Metro:
RAIL TALE: A slimy fungus-like mould has shown British scientiests how to improve communication networks. They placed oat flakes on a wet surgace in a pattern matching the cities around Tokyo and analysed how the mould spread between them. It was identical to Tokyo’s rail system and could help build cost-efficient networks of all kinds, Science magazine reports.
Metro MiniCOSM, Science and discovery in brief, Jan 22 2010, page 17
This discovery was probably predictable: it is likely that, of all the cities in the world, Tokyo is one of the most likely to have build the most efficient railway network. Likewise, mould will always take the most efficient path (I’m saying this without any scientific knowledge, but it seems likely). Therefore the two pathways match.
There is potential for this sort of discovery could be used for other (less developed) towns/ cities/ countries, however.
It would be very interesting to find out if there are any other examples of seemingly random scientific discoveries applying to human behaviour.