We already know bees are pretty good at facial recognition, and researchers have shown they can also be effective air-quality monitors. Here's one more reason to keep them around: They're smarter than computers.
Bumblebees can solve the classic "traveling salesman" problem, which keeps supercomputers busy for days. They learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they find the flowers in a different order, according to a new British study.
The traveling salesman problem is an http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NP-hardNP-hard (read: very hard) problem in computer science; it involves finding the shortest possible route between cities, visiting each city only once. Bees are the first animals to figure this out, according to Queen Mary University of London researchers.
Bees need lots of energy to fly, so they seek the most efficient route among networks of hundreds of flowers. They navigate using angles of sunlight, which helps them find their way home, researchers say. To do this, their tiny brains must pack a powerful memory.(Old bees are more forgetful, according to a separate study that came out last week.)
To test bee problem-solving, researchers Lars Chittka and Mathieu Lihoreau tested bees' response to computer-controlled artificial flowers. They wanted to see whether the bees would go after the flowers in the order in which they were discovered, or if they would figure out the shortest route among all the flowers even as new ones were added. The bees explored the locations of the flowers and quickly figured out the shortest paths among them, according to a Queen Mary news release.
This is no small feat, especially considering bee brains are about as big as a microdot. When it comes to intelligence, size apparently does not matter.
Earlier this year, researchers showed that bees recognize individual faces because they can make out the relative patterns that make up a face. The new research further suggests bees are highly sophisticated problem solvers, and that better understanding of their brains could improve our understanding of network problems like traffic flows, supply chains and epidemiology.
The research will be published this week in the journal The American Naturalist.
So does that mean NP = P?
I can accept not being smarter than a super computer, but now a bee? That's worth 2 quarts of ice cream tonight.
RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing).
ASCD (Algorythm-Specific Circuit Design).
SLDP (Super-Local Distributed Processing).
(I just made those last two up).
This article is misleading, for a low number of flowers (towns) in the travelling salesman problem, this is a simple problem to solve. A computer can solve it in milliseconds for a small number < 10 towns.
How many flowers did the bee have to visit? If its less than 10, then this isn't so fantastic. Its interesting but not as great as they suggest.
It does not suggest that the bee is anywhere as fast as the computer, most likely the computer will solve the problem in a faster time than the bee for the number of flowers and clusters of flowers the bee has to deal with.
This is a hard problem with a large number of towns, consider that it took 22.6 years computer years to find the shortest path between towns for 15,112 towns in germany. Note they used many computers in parallel, so the total number of years is the summed time of computer use for all the computer working on the problem at the same time.
phillip: you realize that these scientists probably consider the fact that it is relatively easy for a computer to solve the problem with a small number of flowers(towns). They most likely tested it many different times with many different numbers of flowers(towns).
Quantum computers are functioning that have been programmed to solve these "shortest route" problem in little to no time compared to our binary computers today.
The original article says "in nature, bees have to link hundreds of flowers in a way that minimises travel distance".
Probably the bee doesn't find the single optimal solution, the bee finds the solution which is close to optimal. Computers can also do that for 100's of towns fairly quickly for optimal solutions (not the single best solution).
The very simplest, greediest solution is to just repeatedly pick the nearest neighbour; that will on average give you a route just 25% longer than optimal.
Better approximate solutions exists that are only a little slower but get within 10% of optimal.
I would bet they (scientists) are just surprised that bees even tried to find a good solution instead of just going remembering them. After all most people would think with such a small brain just remembering where the flowers are is pretty darn good.
I just plain find it interesting what can be packed into such a small area. I can't remember if it was the bees or humming birds, but one of them not only remembers where the flowers are, it knows when to go back to a certain flower. If they go back at the wrong time there is no nectar, so it is important.
Why is everyone so hung up on size? The size of the brain doesn't matter at all; it's the number of neuronal connections that determines intelligence. A brain could have one one-thousandth the number of neurons as the average human, but if each neuron forms one thousand times more connections the organism would be just as intelligent as an average human.
So to estimate the shortest path and recognize things (speaking of which, they need to recognize flowers, correct? So I'd think facial recognition is just a generalization of that object recognition ability) is not at all hindered by a "small" brain--though it would be hindered by a "smooth", or "unconnected" brain.
-IMP ;) :)
The problem with the article is that they compare the bee to a super-computer "Bees Solve Hard Computing Problems Faster Than Supercomputers".
Its not a fact that they solve them faster than the super-computer. So the title is VERY misleading. For computer-science type people, like myself, its annoying.
freaking cry about it more.
Found the abstract of the study, they only use 4 'cities' which won't stump any super computer for days. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/657042
So bees are just designed to solve this problem- considering their nature, it's not so hard for them to figure out.
Design a supercomputer for the sole purpose of solving this problem, and it'll do it faster- especially with millions of bee "processors" in a distributed environment.
Bees may be more efficient, but that brain only has to handle certain pre-programmed functions, such as breathing, sleeping, basic communication (mother bees don't "teach" babies- not at all considering how reproduction works...) for how to find food, how to make honey, how to fight, and how to fly and gather this food.
All this comes pre-programmed into memory when they're born.
Supercomputers need an algorithm, however, to figure this out- they don't come pre-programmed. Get a better algorithm, and it will work faster.
Yeah, but can they make a good pizza? I don't think so.
Wow! This is cool research!
all old news..., the cia has been training killer bees in a top secret program for years. the training facility is in an abandoned air force hanger in kansas. the bees train in a tubular shaft with a flat bottom, the entire interior is lined with computer controlled lcd screens, this is all in a variable velocity wind tunnel. cups of nectar are placed on various locations on the lcd screens where the accurate background images and brightly colored flower representations scroll and stop at. the humidity, sunlight, odors, sounds, and temperatures are also factored in. the killer bees are given a photograph of the target to memorize, then they are whisked to the wind tunnel where a preprogrammed route using google maps, satellite photos, etc. is played until memorized. agents along the real-world route place the duplicate flowers with nectar on rooftops, awnings, etc... the genetically modified venom in the bees has claimed thirty seven victims in 6 years...
Pretty amazing. in that information i already learn to appreciate the bees characteristics. well the topic here is not about the computers, but about how bees can find a shortest route.we even all know how the honeys are preserved even in thousand years. and right now we had a lot of benefits on honeys, specially on diet.if you want to know more about diet you can follow us at www.completedietinfo.com.
Reminds me of the tone of tea vendors in Indian railway trians. When they say "chaay"(indian word for tea) they all settle down to almost same frequencies(low).
My theory is, that pitch is best compromise between reach to customer and conservation OF energy in a noisy environment of the train on a long day job.
I like bees
ohh that would be a good observation. it will help more even to understand the behavior or the animals.
This bespeaks of design, for the honeybee is indeed a traveler. For it to be able to outdo a supercomputer for it's purpose of pollinating flowers is a marvel. These are accomplishing a necessary work, for without bees, agricultural pollination would not not done.(as CCD or Colony Collapsed Disorder has shown). The earth, with it's assortment of bees, were designed as part of a worldwide ecological arrangement, put into place by our Creator, Jehovah God.