Oct. 26, 2010
NewsScientific News


Solving Complex Mathematical Problems

Bumblebees can find the solution to a complex mathematical problem which keeps computers busy for days. Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London and Queen Mary, University of London have discovered that bees learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they discover the flowers in a different order. Bees are effectively solving the ‘Travelling Salesman Problem', and these are the first animals found to do this.

The Travelling Salesman must find the shortest route that allows him to visit all locations on his route. Computers solve it by comparing the length of all possible routes and choosing the shortest. However, bees solve it without computer assistance using a brain the size of grass seed.


Teaser image: Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris audax) queen collecting pollen (photographer: Nigel Raine)

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