Australian and French scientists have announced that they have discovered, through experiments, that bees can “understand” the notion of nothing and nothing, an unexpected finding they said, raising the question of how ultimately people are.
Bees are generally renowned for intelligent insects, since previous studies have shown that, among others, they can “count” as the four. Bees are now expanding the “club” of the few intelligent animals (dolphins, parrots, monkeys and preschool children) who have the ability to distinguish and recognize the zero number from the rest.
The bee has less than a million neurons in its brain, compared to about 86 billion people, yet it seems capable of “understanding” this zero, that is, the notion of nothing. It may seem nothing simple to today’s adult human, but it is an advanced abstract concept that is not easy to understand. That is why many ancient human civilizations did not include zero in their numbering systems.
The researchers, led by Associate Professor Adrian Dean of the University of Melbourne’s RMIT, who reported in Science, claim that they have shown with their experiments that bees, although they are far from the most advanced mammals in the tree of evolution, not only do the notion “less than” than the meaning “greater than”. But it is possible to distinguish zero as something smaller than number one.
In the experiments (motivated and rewarded to provide extra food for any bee who made the right choice) the concept “smaller than” was represented by an image with few black geometric shapes on a white background, while the “greater than” concept represented a white image with many black shapes. Zero was an image that had no black shapes at all, it was empty. According to the researchers, the bees understood that the image with nothing on it (zero) was lower in value than the image with a black mark on it (the number one).
“Scratch is a difficult concept to understand, and mathematical competence is not easy to learn. Children need some years to learn it, about four years of age. For some time we believed that only humans have the intelligence to understand the notion of zero, but recent research has shown that monkeys and birds can also. What we did not know until now was that even insects eventually can understand zero, “said Deer.
Others, however, appeared more cautious, asking what really means that an animal – and more so an insect – “understands” zero and nothing. But this is really hard to answer, unless a scientist in his next life becomes a bee …