Zero is a very difficult concept to understand. A quantitative measure of things — whether it’s bunches of bananas, human society or wooden building blocks — essential for our existence. But “nothing” is the absence of something, from the point of view of the brain — is quite another. People, for example, it was very difficult to understand this concept. Our ability to understand the zero as a separate numeric value has become an important part of mathematics, engineering and technology. But recently we learned that other animals also got the understanding of “nothing”.
Some species of primates and birds, like rhesus macaques, and African grey parrots can define “nothing” as “something”. Recently in the journal Science also reported that honey bees are also included in the club of animals-mathematicians.
That bees are not stupid, we know for a long time. Previously, scientists have found that bees have the intellectual mechanisms of counting and separation of objects up to four. It is already impressive. In the new study, researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, wanted to know if bees can also understand the zero as a separate value. And the team was surprised to find that you can. Bees distinguish zero from one more often than not different, and this success increased when compared with zero to a higher value.
To get the bees to consider, the scientists used the sweetened water as a reward. The bees were shown a card with a different number of symbols, and the sugar water they received when they sat on a card with fewer characters. Bees understood the problem and always flew to the card with fewer characters. Amazing. The researchers then showed the bee card, which was either a single character or nothing. Bees made the right choice, putting that you understand that nothing less than unity in numerical scale. Even easier for the bees to distinguish a zero from a number, four or five.
How animals with such a small number of neurons understand this complex mathematical concept? Scientists do not know till now. But studies show that “mathematically talented” is a group of neurons — “neurons numbers” — can work especially in the direction of numeric comparisons and quantitative understanding. These cells react differently to the high number of components. Perhaps that is the secret.