“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” So says the biblical proverb, and modern scientists have been following its sage advice to learn from the ants. In doing so they have learned many lessons about the evolution of complexity and have even been able to produce a computerized version of the ants’ approach to problem solving.
Ants face difficult decisions in their lives, not least in their choice of routes to a food source, where it is important to establish the shortest route so that they waste as little energy as possible when carrying the food back to the nest. Judging by the ant trails in my garden, they seem to do it pretty efficiently. The trails are invariably straight, representing the shortest ...