Monday, November 05, 2007

Feynman's Ants

Via Make blog...

This page at LanBo technologies recalls young Richard Feyman's ad hoc experiments on ants in which he tried to figure out how ants communicated the location of sugar. The story should be an inspiration to any curious mind.

"When he was a student at Princeton University, in the early 1940s, he tried to figure out how ants communicated. He put sugar on a piece of folded cardboard and hung it on a string stretched across a window. Then he waited for some ants to appear. Whenever he saw one, he picked it up on a piece of paper and took it to the sugar.

'I wanted to see how long it would take the other ants to get the message to go to the 'ferry terminal'. It started slowly, but rapidly increased until I was going mad ferrying the ants back and forth.' After a while, he started taking the ants from the sugar to a different spot. None of them went back to the original starting place, which would have returned them to the sugar. They followed one another, but not to the sugar."



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