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Study: Bees are smarter than computers

Research shows that bees can solve highly complex mathematical problems far quicker than computers. But can they code?

I know that, for some, bees are something of an irritant. The same, however, can be said of computers.

While bees sometimes pester us with their proximity and noise, computers pester us by making us believe in the proximity of something we're missing, somewhere out there.

However, new research suggests something both powerful and profound about these two pesterers: bees are allegedly far smarter than computers. For, the Guardian informs me, bees are swiftly able to solve the "traveling salesman problem."

My mother's solution to this was to never open the door or, if she did, to pretend she couldn't speak English. However, when it's put in quotation marks, it refers to the conundrum of choosing the shortest route between a multitude of locations.

Are these the coders of the future? CC Aussiegall/Flickr

I had always assumed that Google Maps and Mapquest had this thing covered. Oh, no. The researchers at Royal Holloway College in London feel that bees are the champions, especially given that their brains are far smaller than navel fluff.

A computer will solve the "traveling salesman problem" by comparing the length of all possible routes and then computing which one is the shortest. This might take some time.

A bee, by contrast, relies on its instincts rather than a Mac.

The research, which used artificial flowers controlled by computers, showed that bees do a quick fly-by of the flowers and then work out the shortest route in their extremely tiny heads.

One of the Royal Holloway College experimenters, Nigel Raine, told the Guardian: "Despite their tiny brains, bees are capable of extraordinary feats of behavior. We need to understand how they can solve the traveling salesman problem without a computer."

This is merely the latest in the subtle battle between bees and technology. Research in India seems to suggest that the dwindling of the world's bee population may be caused by cell phone radiation, which confuses the bees' sense of direction home.

However, if these London scientists manage to discover just how it is that bees are so clever, might some enterprising entrepreneur find a way to teach bees to code, thereby creating new growth opportunities among the bee population?

Now that would change the nature of the Valley, wouldn't it?