Anternet Controls Seed Harvest

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Anternet controls seed harvest, according to reports in ScienceDaily 29 August 2012. Biologist Deborah Gordon and computer scientist Balaji Prabhakar of Stanford University have found harvester ants use a system to control the rate of sending out ant foragers that works in the same way internet protocols control data transfer on the Internet. Gordon has been studying harvester ants, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, which forage for seeds, and noted the ants had a system where the rate of sending out foragers corresponds well with the availability of food. Ants leave the nest individually and return to the nest when they collect a seed. If the ants return soon with seeds to the nest, then more foragers are sent out. However, if foragers are slow to return, or start returning without seeds, fewer foragers leave the nest.

Prabhakar noted that this control system is similar to the way Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) works to control the movement of data over the Internet. When a file is sent from one place to another over the Internet it is broken up into small sections or packets. When the destination site for the file receives a packet, it sends an acknowledgment to the source. If the acknowledgments arrive quickly back at the source site, this indicates there is enough bandwidth to transmit more, and the source site can increase the rate of sending the packets. If acknowledgments slow down, this indicates congestion so fewer packets are sent. This feedback loop helps avoid congestion on the Internet.

To confirm the similarity of these two control systems Prabhaker wrote a math formula or algorithm to predict foraging behaviour depending on availability of food, and Gordon conducted experiments with ants that manipulated the rate of forager return. They found the TCP-inspired algorithm almost exactly matched the ant behaviour found in Gordon’s experiments. They even found the forager control system matched two other features of TCP. One is known as “slow start” where a source sends out a large number of packets in order to assess the available bandwidth. In the same way, ants start their foraging by sending out a lot of individuals and then increasing or decreasing the sending out rate according to the rate of returning foragers. If the ant foragers are prevented from returning to the nest for more than 20 minutes, no more are sent out. This is similar to the “time out” function of TCP when a file source ceases transmission if a data link is broken so no acknowledgements come back. The researchers have nicknamed the ant colony’s control system the “Anternet”. Prabhakar commented: “Ants have discovered an algorithm that we know well, and they've been doing it for millions of years”.

ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: We also know very well that the computers on the Internet never wrote the TCP algorithm, so why be illogical in thinking the ants somehow developed the “Anternet” algorithm or worse still, evolved it by any chance random processes. Just as Internet data transfer protocols work because computer scientists outside the system both created and applied them, so the ants foraging control system shows the same design evidence of being applied to the ants by the algorithm’s Creator. The fact that it needed a computer scientist to write the algorithm which was applied experimentally to the ants to achieve the same results ants produce naturally really does prove this. It’s the ‘therefore’ that is the problem. All scientists who collaborated on this project ‘therefore’ have no excuse for ignoring the Creator of the work they observed during their observations and experiments. (Ref. social insects, arthropods, design)

Evidence News 12 September 2012

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