8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, 64-bit or just a bee?

Our life is dominated with information flows: TV, web, phone, … and the future success of these flows and networks depends greatly on how we can best manage the ever increasing demands on bandwidth and computer processing power.
One important challenge is making sure that traffic takes the optimal route, eliminating unnecessary stops (or hops) along the way as it would only clutter the routers it finds on its path.

This is the so-called “Travelling Salesman Problem”.  The Travelling Salesman must find the shortest route that allows him to visit all locations on his route.  This problem is found in works on optimizing business supply chains, studies on the evolution of road traffic and also on computer networks.
Usually, the problem posed is solved by sheer processing power, as computers calculate the different paths and then choose the shortest one.  However, this is taking CPU power away from the actual task the computer was intended for, so how can we optimize this path determination?
The answer comes from a very unexpected side… a humble bee…

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, effectively solving the “Travelling Salesman Problem”, and these are the first animals found to do this.  They do this, with a brain the size of a grass seed.

By understanding how bees can solve their problem with such a tiny brain we can improve our management of our everyday networks without needing lots of computer time, the only challenge is: What special trick do they use?  The magnitude of this discovery is highlighted if you take a look at the associated video with this blogpost (it is almost 1 hour in length), but if you look at it, you see some pretty advanced math being applied to the problem… surely something the bees are not capable of…
Research on this subject will yield some interesting insights into complex problem solving, not with a 64-bit, but with a 1-bee processor :)

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