Monday, October 25, 2010

Nature 2, Man 0: Bees' Tiny Brains Beat Computers, Study Finds

Example The travelling salesman problem (TSP)                             Image via Wikipedia
Bees can solve complex mathematical problems which keep computers busy for days, research has shown.
The insects learn to fly the shortest route between flowers discovered in random order, effectively solving the "travelling salesman problem" , said scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London.
The conundrum 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.
If only I can have faith the size of a bee's brain!

Once again we see man playing catch-up.
"Despite their tiny brains bees are capable of extraordinary feats of behaviour," said Raine. "We need to understand how they can solve the travelling salesman problem without a computer."
Nice.  (Although I'm not sure about the "computers busy for days" bit.)

Since man is trying to replicate this engineering feat, and since when it comes to graph theory bees are "the bees' knees", I'm calling this Nature 2, Man 0.
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kursk said...

Bees have had tens of millons of years to perfect the algorithm..computers..about 60 some odd years?

RkBall said...

1. What algorithm? As soon as you admit an algorithm, the game is over.

2. Computers can only do what an intelligent agent enable them to do.

3. What actual evidence do you have that a bee's capabilities arose and were refined over 60 million years?

4. Regardless, dumb-as-rock nature has thus-far out-engineered intelligent humans. Hmmm.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"