For 70 years, scientists have known that honeybees tell the other bees in their hive where the good nectar is by doing an elaborate bee dance. The 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.
Adam Frank writes in Discover.com that scientists don't understand how honeybees, who have very tiny brains, are able to achieve such an elaborate form of communication.
Karl Von Frisch's Dance Language and Orientation of Bees, in which he interpreted bee dances, was published in 1965. One of the movements he recorded bees making is what he called the waggle dance, in which it moves in two arcs bisected by a central line. Frank writes, "The bee starts by making a short straight run, waggling side to side and buzzing as it goes. Then it turns left (or right) and walks in a semicircle back to the starting point. The bee then repeats the short run down the middle, makes a semicircle to the opposite side, and returns once again to the starting point?The central waggling part of the dance is the most important. To convey the direction of a food source, the bee varies the angle the waggling run makes with an imaginary line running straight up and down?If you draw a line connecting the beehive and the food source, and another line connecting the hive and the spot on the horizon just beneath the sun, the angle formed by the two lines is the same as the angle of the waggling run to the imaginary vertical line?the bees must also tell their hive mates how far to go to get to the food. The shape or geometry of the dance changes as the distance to the food source changes?The closer the food source is to the hive, the greater the divergence between the two waggling runs."
If you receive our free newsletter, you've already read this story. In it, Whitley wrote, "Who knows, maybe the reason for the radio silence that the Search forExtraterrestrial Intelligence finds in the universe is because ET doesn't communicate with sparks but with quarks. If so, they're liable to contact the honeybee before they even realize that we HAVE minds..."
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