Practical Technology

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Before the Internet: The Ant-net


Way, way back in pre-history, back when dinosaurs walked the Earth and we were mere gleams in the eyes of furry critters whose usual fate was to go crunch, harvester ants had worked out how many foragers to send out of the nest to bring home the Jurassic bacon using techniques we now use on the Internet.

This is not an Onion story. As reported by Standford University, two researchers, Deborah Gordon, a biology professor told Balaji Prabhakar, a computer science professor, about how harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) worked out how to send out ants to collect food. Prabhakar soon realized, to his surprise, that the ants were using almost the exact same TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) algorithm that we use on the Internet

When the ants hunt for food, an ant won’t return to the nest until it’s found something. If there’s a lot of food, usually seeds, available, they’ll bring the goods back to the next. Then, more ants will join them and the food will get marched back to the nest at a quicker pace. As the food supply runs low, the nest will start sending out fewer foragers.

Before the Internet: The Ant-net. More >

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