What ants and computers have in common

Stanford University biology professor and researcher Deborah Gordon has been studying ants for over 20 years. When she figured out how leafcutter ants decided when to send out more ants to retrieve food, she contacted a colleague in the computer science department, Balaji Prabhakar. Their collaboration resulted in something remarkable:

“‘The next day it occurred to me, ‘Oh wait, this is almost the same as how [Internet] protocols discover how much bandwidth is available for transferring a file!’ Prabhakar said. ‘The algorithm the ants were using to discover how much food there is available is essentially the same as that used in the Transmission Control Protocol.'”

As The Atlantic reports, it’s not surprising to find that ants use a formal communications protocol. But to find that it’s “essentially the same” as Transmission Control Protocol is incredible.