A study, titled “Blackawton bees”, has been published by the peer-reviewed journal “Biology Letters”. And this is nothing new.
The notable fact is that authors are 25 8- to 10-year-old children (and 2 older guys, a neuroscientist and a teacher). Source: Wired.
The project grew out of a lecture Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist, gave at the school, where his son was a student. Lotto spoke about his research on human perception, bumblebees and robots, and then shared his ideas on how science is done: Science is nothing more than a game.
The principal finding of the paper is: ‘We discovered that bumble-bees can use a combination of colour and spatial relationships in deciding which colour of flower to forage from. We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before. (Children from Blackawton)’.
Lotto got problems in getting the paper published because of lack of citations and I think it’s comment to Wired is all too true and agreeable: “That’s what I tell my PhD students: Don’t do any reading. Figure out why you wake up in the morning, what you’re passionate about, and then read the literature. But don’t figure out what’s interesting based on what other people say.”
And the attitude of one of the author (10 years old at most) really strikes a chord: “I thought science was just like math, really boring,” he said. “But now I see that it’s actually quite fun. When you’re curious, you can just make up your own experiment, so you can answer the question.” This should be science but sometimes possibly we adults tend to forget it.
A brief review of the paper now. The paper is written with a refreshening style, containing gems such as “Once upon a time…” and “the puzzle . . .duh duh duuuuhhh” as or considerations such as “Otherwise they might fail the test, and it would be a disaster.”
The paper, after the “Once upon a time…” entry, starts with “People think that humans are the smartest of animals, and most people do not think about other animals as being smart, or at least think that they are not as smart as humans. Knowing that other animals are as smart as us means we can appreciate them more, which could also help us to help them.”
They go on with “After talking about what it is like to create games and how games have rules, we talked about seeing the world in different ways by wearing bug eyes, mirrors and rolled-up books. We then watched the David Letterman videos of ‘Stupid Dog Tricks’, in which dogs were trained to do funny things.”
And they brag a little bit about themselves which I think it’s good “Next, we too had to learn to solve a puzzle that Beau (a neuroscientist) and Mr Strudwick (our headteacher) gave us (which took an artificial brain 10 000 trials to solve, but only four for us)”
Then they describe the real experiments they devised and conducted scientifically and report the results. “This experiment is important, because, as far as we know, no one in history (including adults) has done this experiment before.”
And they conclude with “Before doing these experiments we did not really think a lot about bees and how they are as smart as us. We also did not think about the fact that without bees we would not survive, because bees keep the flowers going. So it is important to understand bees. We discovered how fun it was to train bees. This is also cool because you do not get to train bees everyday. We like bees. Science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before. (Bees—seem to—think!)”
Image by mitikusa released on Flickr under Creative Commons license.