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Math Science

Stanford Researchers Discover the 'Anternet' 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the ant-power dept.
stoilis writes "A collaboration between Deborah Gordon, a Stanford ant biologist, and Balaji Prabhakar, a computer scientist, has revealed that the behavior of harvester ants, as they forage for food, mirrors the protocols that control traffic on the Internet. From the article: 'Prabhakar wrote an ant algorithm to predict foraging behavior depending on the amount of food – i.e., bandwidth – available. Gordon's experiments manipulate the rate of forager return. Working with Stanford student Katie Dektar, they found that the TCP-influenced algorithm almost exactly matched the ant behavior found in Gordon's experiments. "Ants have discovered an algorithm that we know well, and they've been doing it for millions of years," Prabhakar said.' The abstract is published in the Aug. 23 issue of PLoS Computational Biology."
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Stanford Researchers Discover the 'Anternet'

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  • How close? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:25AM (#41136383)

    the TCP-influenced algorithm almost exactly matched the ant behavior

    How close?

    They talking about a full implementation of RFC 5681 with all 4 schemes and all the bells and whistles, or just some trendy popular science stuff with "well, there seems to be ACKs".

    http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc5681 [ietf.org] (not a rickroll, I promise)

    I suppose a RFC 5681 loss recovery mechanism would be something like what happens when you step on an ant. ssthresh TCP setting is like how many ants fit thru the hole at once when you agitate the colony with a stick? We could probably have a lot of fun doing "official slashdot ant analogies" instead of the more common "official slashdot car analogies"

  • by thomasw_lrd (1203850) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:27AM (#41136407)

    "Ants have discovered an algorithm that we know well, and they've been doing it for millions of years," Prabhakar said.

    Does anybody else see the problem with this statement?

    I think it would have been better said "We have discovered an algorithm that ant know well."

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:36AM (#41136489) Journal

    I think it would have been better said "We have discovered an algorithm that ant know well."

    Arguably, unless 'knowing' is something that you can do with substantially less nervous system than we expect, it might be more apt to think of ants as being capable of executing an algorithm, rather than 'knowing' it. By way of example, even children who haven't had a day of math in their lives, and are totally ignorant of the physics describing the trajectories of objects near the earth's surface can still catch a ball you toss to them most of the time(and sending them off to physics class is hardly the most efficient way of improving their performance...)

  • Common sense? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kgskgs (938843) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:56AM (#41136645) Journal

    I honestly didn't see a lot of substance here.

    Instead of saying ants use TCP, I would say ants and TCP both use common sense.

    When I apply for jobs, I contact friends in my network. If someone gets back to me faster, I reply back faster and send my resume to them quickly. Does that mean I am following TCP/IP?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 27, 2012 @11:02AM (#41136683)

    I thought that TCP was largely influenced by the behavior of ants. So the only surprise with this discovery to me is that those researchers seem to be oblivious to that fact

  • "Ants have discovered an algorithm that we know well, and they've been doing it for millions of years," Prabhakar said.

    Does anybody else see the problem with this statement?

    To be fair, the ants implemented the algorithm first, ergo: Nature discovered it first. Or, if you'd rather not personify the cosmos: Such protocols are naturally emergent.

    Most of what we're now learning and formalizing was discovered by nature millions of years ago. Slime molds can solve traffic patterns too. Pine cones "know" the Fibonacci sequence (at an intimate level). Fast Fourier Transforms are how our brains filter signals for certain kinds of pattern recognition. Holograms are macro scale demonstrations of reality at the quantum level. Neural networks can think (well duh). Life, as we know it, is merely a fractal expansion of DNA.

If a 6600 used paper tape instead of core memory, it would use up tape at about 30 miles/second. -- Grishman, Assembly Language Programming

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