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Bees Dance to a Quantum Waltz

edited July 2006 in Nature
imageThe dance of the honeybee is one of the most intricate communications in nature. But how can a tiny animal with only a few million neurons possibly possess all the information needed to carry it out? The answer: it may be a quantum dance.

Scientists who study these movements have experiemented with moving the hives closer and farther away from the food source, then examining the resulting dances. Mathematician Barbara Shipman has discovered that the movements of the dancing bees can be predicted by a mathematical formula called a "flag manifold," which expresses movement in the world of the tiny particles known as quarks. In mathematical terms, a manifold is a basic shape. She made this discovery when she projected the six dimensions of a flag manifold onto a two dimensional piece of paper. She was amazed to see that she was recreating the form of the bees' dance.

It may be that the bee's brain, while it seems simple compared to ours, actually works in a completely different, and more sophisticated, way: it may be quark-sensitive. - link
The dancing behaviour of the bee is just one outcome of a series of complex activities going on in the bee's 'brain'. What's to say one similarly disconnected human behaviour didn't waltz to the same quantum melody? Assuming the brain of the bee is more 'sophisticated' than ours is actually more arrogant than it looks. We aren't much more complex than a bee hive when our distinct behaviours have been broken down. To assume we are somehow devoid of a quantum beat is to assume the quantum realm doesn't affect us at all.

Anyway, an interesting insight into a rarely accessible aspect of reality. Insect news never disappoints.

(Via Posthuman Blues)


  • edited July 2006
    How the hell did this woman discover this? She projects the six dimensions of the flag doodah onto a piece of paper - that bit I understand (well, not understand, exactly, but anyway) - what I don't get is the next stage.

    A really weird shape appears - I'm imagining, basically, a Spirograph doodle - and this woman says, "Shit, guys, check this out! It's a fucking bee-dance! I drew this messy thing using maths and it looks exactly like a bee dance!"

    Then, I bet, her colleagues in the maths lab are like, "Yeah, very funny, Babs. You just drew that bee-dance with a Spirograph. Maths can't draw bee-dances."

    And she's like, "No - seriously - I didn't even plan to do a drawing of a bee-dance or anything! It just happened by maths. I was doing some maths, just like any other day here in the maths lab, and then the maths drew this thing and I was like, 'no shit - a bee-dance. Where did that come from?' At first I thought I just left one of my bee-dance drawings lying around the place - you know, the ones I do with my Spirograph? - but they're all on the other bench, by my calculator. This one actually came out of maths! It's that two-dimensionalised flag wotsit I was going on about - this is what it looks like! A fucking bee-dance!"

    And then the other maths people are like, "Well, it's a damn good job that your hobby is drawing bee-dances and you were two-dimensionalising that thingy, otherwise no one might have made this crazy discovery which clearly means that bees are very clever. Obviously."

    They still can't get through windows though. Bees, I mean. Not mathematicians.
  • edited July 2006
    The bees are actually 4 dimensional shadows of 6 dimensional beings experimenting....oops, Adams again.
    What if the window is open? Could I get through a 6 dimensional portal?
  • So the bee is your key through? I guess you'd need to bribe the hive with some really high grade pollen or something.

    Does that make the Queen Bee : 'Her Hyperdimensional Highness'?
  • A search for flag manifold brings up a page full of links that make me feel stupid. But on page two I found this:
    Shipman is a mathematician at the University of Rochester, but her father was a bee researcher for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Shipman would often stop by her father’s office and he would show her the amazing world of honey bees.
    She grew up learning about bees; she currently teaches complex math; she imagines bees teaching and learning via complex math. She's able to predict changes in bee behavior with her calculations. I say let the lady have her dancing hive of nerds.
  • Her pandimensional pulchritude has trained young Shipman well
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