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  • 00:06

    [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • 00:09

    MARK HORSTMAN: It's never a good ideato get between an ant and its dinner.Their strategies to find the shortest way to foodare so efficient, they are used to program computers.Ant behavior inspired the softwarethat runs our phone networks, airport terminals, and deliverysystems.

  • 00:29

    MARK HORSTMAN [continued]: But no computer can cope with an unpredictable world like an antcan.This is a puzzle game called the Towers of Hanoi.[Mark Horstman] And the aim is to move this stack of disksto this pig, but you can only move one disk at a time.And you can't stack a larger disk on top of a smaller one.Now, if you translate this puzzle to a maze,

  • 00:51

    MARK HORSTMAN [continued]: you can test it on ants.The rules may be simple, but I've got to tell you,it's harder than it looks.By mapping all the possible solutionsonto a diamond-shaped maze, mathematical biologist ChrisReid gives his ants more than 32,000 ways to solve it.

  • 01:09

    CHRIS REID: If we can look at howants can solve these problems, which are the kinds of problemsthey solve every day, then perhaps wecan use them in our own industries as well.[Chris Reid, Mathematical Biologist, Uni of Sydney]

  • 01:19

    MARK HORSTMAN: These are Argentine ants, a feral speciesfound in many kitchens.When one finds food, it drops a chemical markercalled a pheromone for others to follow.The more pheromone, the more ants are recruited.

  • 01:33

    CHRIS REID: This is an hour into the experiment,so the ants have had time to set up a really strong solutionalong the outside of the maze.

  • 01:43

    MARK HORSTMAN: And then Chris alters their world.He blocks off the shortest path.What do the hungry ants do?

  • 01:50

    CHRIS REID: They end up switchingfrom this area of the maze, which is nowstrong in pheromone but inefficient,to this area of the maze, which is a new area and the shortestsolution.

  • 02:01

    MARK HORSTMAN: And is this surprising?

  • 02:03

    CHRIS REID: It is surprising they are able to do that.

  • 02:05

    MARK HORSTMAN: It looks like the ants findingthe food use different pheromones than the antsout exploring.

  • 02:12

    CHRIS REID: What we found is that the individual antsthemselves have much better navigational abilities thanwas previously thought.None of the current computer algorithmsbased on ants' movements incorporate thisinto their system.

  • 02:26

    MARK HORSTMAN: This insight into the navigation of real antscan be tested on virtual ants in a computer model.

  • 02:32

    CHRIS REID: We can give them virtual pheromone, whichagain is just lines of code.This pheromone can be laid down behind the data packetsas they travel through a network.

  • 02:42

    MARK HORSTMAN: This experiment tells us for the first timethat this species of ant is far moreadaptable to changes in its environmentthan previously thought.Now the question is, can we make computer networksto mimic what the ants do?

  • 02:55

    CHRIS REID: Yes, we can do that.And it could be just a matter of altering the algorithms that wealready have to include this additional information that wehave found.What's more important here is that nature has much moreinspiration in store.

Video Info

Publisher: Australian Broadcasting Company

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:Documentary

Methods: Algorithms, Computational modelling

Keywords: ants; computer program models; computer programming; problem solving

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:

Keywords:

Abstract

Chris Reid, Mathematical Biologist at the University of Sydney, speaks with Mark Horstman about his research in ant problem-solving abilities and how this can be applied to computer algorithms.

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Ant Algorithms

Chris Reid, Mathematical Biologist at the University of Sydney, speaks with Mark Horstman about his research in ant problem-solving abilities and how this can be applied to computer algorithms.

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