Tiny bees ‘better than computers at solving complex math problems’

Monday, October 25, 2010

LONDON - Who would have thought a bee could solve complex mathematical problems? But scientists at the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London believe that they can even outsmart computers.

Effectively, they are capable of solving the “travelling salesman problem” - a classic conundrum that involves finding the shortest route that allows a travelling salesman to call at all the locations he has to visit.

Computers solve the problem by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the one that is shortest. Bees manage to reach the same solution using a brain the size of a grass seed.

“They visit flowers at multiple locations and, because bees use lots of energy to fly, they find a route which keeps flying to a minimum,” the Scotsman quoted Dr Nigel Raine as saying.

After exploring the location of the flowers, bees quickly learned to fly the best route for saving time and energy.

Understanding this wonderful ability could have implications for the human world too since modern living depends on networks such as traffic flows, internet information, and business supply chains.

“We need to understand how they can solve the travelling salesman problem without a computer. What short-cuts do they use?” said Raine.

The research will appear this week in the journal The American Naturalist. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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