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Bee brains can beat computers

world Updated: Nov 15, 2010 23:38 IST
The Guardian
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Bees can solve complex mathematical problems which can keep computers busy for days, new 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.

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