The point is, how do you teach a bee to do arithmetic?

compared with humans, the brains of honeybees are much simpler, and the number of neurons in their cerebellum is 5 orders of magnitude less than that of human brains.

but even with such a simple-looking brain, you can still enter the field of mathematics.

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A study last year found that bees can understand an important mathematical concept: 0. They know that "no" is a concept that can be compared with other numbers, and that it is smaller than 1, 2, or 3. Now, the math skills of bees have been refreshed: scientists have taught some bees to add and subtract. Although, they can only + 1 or-1 now.

of course, the more curious question than the mathematical ability of bees is: how on earth do scientists get bees to do math problems? After all, you can't give it a paper to do.

next, let's look at the process of some bees learning to do math problems. The experimental designs of the two studies are somewhat similar. they both use different numbers of graphics to represent the corresponding numbers (if it is 0, there will be a blank piece of paper without graphics), and then give the right and wrong answers according to the author's intention. In the exercise, the right and wrong options are rewarded and punished: if you choose right, bees can drink their favorite sugar water; if you choose wrong, they will taste a bitter quinine solution.

for example, if scientists want to ask bees the question "which number is smaller," and the corresponding options are 1 and 3, they will show the bees two pieces of paper with one square and three squares, respectively. Then put the reward sugar water on this side of the square.

(an example. Casually draw a diagram)

next, it is the time for bees to do exercises. The researchers will change some different options, and under the guidance of reward and punishment, bees will begin to understand the pattern.

in the topic of "ratio size", you only need to change the number of graphics, but "addition and subtraction" is more complicated: scientists must let bees know that there are two different rules of calculation: "add" and "subtract". Fortunately, the bees had a good sense of color, so this time the scientists painted the square a different color: blue for plus one and yellow for minus one. They made a Y-shaped selection device, and the bees will first see the question at the entrance, and then see two options after entering.

the following figure shows that the question of this bee is "2: 1", and the option "3" on the left is the correct answer. If it chooses the left, it can happily drink sugar water.

(screenshot of the paper. The source of the picture is found in Ref. 1)

then comes the time for bees to do exercises. This time they went through 100 rounds of arithmetic training with rewards and punishments. With the increase of training, the correct rate of bees has improved significantly:

(visible to the naked eye). For the source of the picture, see Ref. 1)

of course, it is not enough to practice, you have to take an exam at last. Rewards and punishments will be removed during the exam, and the difficulty will be improved: the position of the correct answer will be swapped, and the question will be given a number that has never appeared in the question before.

so what are the exam results of the bees? In the end, their accuracy is between 63% and 72%. This does not sound like a good result, after all, their titles are only + 1 and-1, and the maximum number involved is no more than 5. But what is certain is that the score is obviously better than random selection-that is, the bees really understand the rules of the topic and are really doing arithmetic.

these results show that performing basic mathematical calculations does not require a very complex brain, and animals may be better at mastering mathematics than we think.

the bees are learning to do math problems. Should all of you in this room (including myself) try harder _ (: math "∠) _

PS: I didn't find a favorite problem picture, so I drew it casually (

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