Physical Computation in Insect Swarms
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Abstract: Our world is full of living creatures that must share information to survive and reproduce. As humans, we easily forget how hard it is to communicate within natural environments. So how do organisms solve this challenge, using only natural resources? Ideas from computer science, physics and mathematics, such as energetic cost, compression, and detectability, define universal criteria that almost all communication systems must meet. We use insect swarms as a model system for identifying how organisms harness the dynamics of communication signals, perform spatiotemporal integration of these signals, and propagate those signals to neighboring organisms. In this talk I will focus on two types of communication in insect swarms: visual communication, in which fireflies communicate over long distances using light signals, and chemical communication, in which bees serve as signal amplifiers to propagate pheromone-based information about the queen’s location.