Showing posts with label calculations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label calculations. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

No Monkey Business with Math Calculating Primates

Most of us have difficulty with math. The exercise lands in the categories somewhere between going to the dentist and paying bills. However, math is an important function of higher order thinking. It requires the ability to understand quantities of information and put those into symbols for manipulation. According to a recent study in the National Academy of Science (PNAS) Rhesus Monkeys have the ability to do math using similar methods as humans. 

Using three Rhesus Macques that are four and five years old the researchers put them into an intense math learning program. The monkeys studied two to four hours a day and were rewarded with treats. Sometimes these monkeys studied seven days a week in their own learning classes. 

The monkeys touched a screen choosing between two options (1). The touch screen only required them to touch the right answers to get rewarded (conditioning). They were taught 26 abstract symbols by reinforcing correct learning. The monkeys were able to touch the biggest number 90% of the time.

The monkeys were able to move from using physical quantities to abstract Arabic numerals. Larger numbers received larger rewards. Correct answers created satisfaction in the learning. As an example they were taught the difference between XXX xx XXX xx or 11 as a higher number. It requires a fundamental shift in what these symbols represented to the monkeys. 

Humans are still the best in math and can learn more quickly than monkeys. However, the study does help us find the 97%+ similarities found between the two species. It is possible that monkeys have the capacity to use some of the mental processes of humans as well as the ability to think abstractly about numbers. Researchers have known for a long time how smart rhesus monkeys were and have used those in various programs include space flight. They now know they are capable of much more with the right education.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Plants Make Complex Chemical Calculations

Plants do math. That is right…researchers have found that plants make calculations to determine the amount of food they will need to make it through the night. During the day they convert sun light into sugars and starch but at night they use 95% of that starch by the start of dawn. The rate is variable depending on the length of the evening. The research helps show chemical intelligence.

Using the Arabidopsis plant they found that they take an internal measurement of the amount of starch available and make a measurement of the time needed until day light. They release the starch throughout the evening to create growth. The plants are not doing human calculations but do use chemicals to make this determination of time and starch. Available starch(S) is divided by available Time (T) for maximum growth.

There is a type of chemical division going on that takes starch and separates by hours. The plants even showed the ability to adjust their calculations in the middle of the night. According to researchers at John Innes Centre in Norwich when night came unexpectedly early the plants made a new calculation. They were consistently efficient.

The purpose of this chemical process is to ensure that growth is maximized throughout the dark hours. When starch is low the plants will stop growing and will take a few hours before growing even after dawn has come. Likewise, when starch is not used up the energy they put into conversion is wasted. They seek homeostasis with their environment.

The advantage of such research is that it helps researchers understand better how plants grow. This can lead to better methods of growing crops and food. If the growth rate is variable and plants can adjust to certain conditions it may be possible to adjust conditions to create faster growing food sources in a natural way.