Do you remember when you were 8? The exciting things you did? Maybe you had finally stopped eating dirt, much to the joy of your parents and chagrin of your friends. Or maybe you got to sit at the grown up’s table for a special dinner and finally learn why Uncle Grover isn’t normally allowed out in public without supervision. You learned that shiny things were neato. Fuzzy things, especially if found in a refrigerator or on the ground, were even better.
If you were the epitome of cool you could roller skate the entire length of your block without mommy and daddy hovering over you.
Yeah, you were on top of the world.
So I’m sure that it’ll come as no surprise to your inner child that a group of 8 year olds in London have made a significant scientific discovery involving the ability of bees to learn.
Sylvia Hui from Associated Press reports that not only did these kids learn how to train bees, they got published in a major scientific journal.
It came with wobbly writing and hand-drawn diagrams, but an elementary school science project has made it into a peer-reviewed journal from Britain’s prestigious Royal Society.
Biology Letters published a report Wednesday conducted and written by a group of 8- to 10-year-olds from an English elementary school investigating the way bumblebees see colors and patterns. The scientific organization — which is more than three centuries old and includes some of the world’s most eminent scientists — said the children reported findings that were a “genuine advance” in the field of insect color and pattern vision.
Working with a neuroscientist from University College London, the children carefully documented their methodology and discussed the data they collected.
The group trained bees to go to targets of different colors by giving them a sugar reward, and reported that the insects are able to learn and remember cues based on color and pattern.
The study successfully went through peer review — although its presentation was slightly unconventional.
“Scientists do experiments on monkeys, because they are similar to man, but bees could actually be close to man too,” the introduction read. The report was peppered with other amusing phrasing and diagrams drawn in colored pencil.
Scientists who commented on the kids’ report in the journal say although the experiments were modest and lacked statistical analyses, they were cleverly and correctly designed and hold their own compared to those conducted by highly trained specialists.
“The experimenters have asked a scientific question and answered it well,” neuroscientists Laurence Maloney and Natalie Hempel wrote in commentary alongside the children’s report.
Beau Lotto, the scientist who coordinated the study, said she hoped the project could inspire people to approach science in a way that’s creative and fun.
“We like bees. Science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before,” the children concluded.
This is a giant step in the right direction since Barbie was rescued from saying “Math is hard” and had it turned into “Vengeance is mine!” Actually, in retrospect, both are kind of creepy.
Believe it or not, the actual abstract published by the Royal Society is a pretty interesting read. Check out this sample;
Play enables humans (and other mammals) to discover (and create) relationships and patterns. When one adds rules to play, a game is created. This is science: the process of playing with rules that enables one to reveal previously unseen patterns of relationships that extend our collective understanding of nature and human nature.
I know adults who couldn’t have parsed that truth so clearly.
I also know that, until now, I thought I was a pretty cool 8 year old.