Bumblebees: Smarter Than Your MacBook?

Bees have brains the size of a grass seed. But new research shows that they may be able to solve problems significantly faster than computers. According to scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, one swarm solved the "traveling salesman problem" by figuring out the shortest flying route between randomly placed flowers.

Similarly, the traveling salesman must find the most efficient route to each place he has to visit. When a computer solves the salesman problem, it measures and compares the length of each possible route and chooses the shortest one.

Scientists say we may be able to learn something from the bees.

The research, due to appear this week in the journal The American Naturalist, has implications for the human world. Modern living depends on networks such as traffic flows, internet information and business supply chains.

"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."

Read the full story at the Guardian.

Presented by

Elizabeth Weingarten is an editorial assistant at the New America Foundation. A former Slate editorial assistant, she also previously wrote for and produced the Atlantic's International Channel.

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