Bee brain researcher wins science prize

A BEE researcher who used the insect’s precision flying systems to overhaul robotic aircraft navigation has won the $300,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

Australian National University Professor Mandyam Veerambudi Srinivasan is working with the US Army and NASA to design tiny craft based on his research of bees’ brains that could be used to explore Mars and reduce danger for soldiers on the battlefield.

Prof Srinivasan said bees were expert navigators despite their small size and brains the size of a sesame seed, and could be trained to navigate through mazes, follow coloured signs and distinguish between patterns to find food.

“What is amazing is these tiny creatures can learn something like that,” said Prof Srinivasan, who trained as an engineer in India but began studying flies and later bees “purely out of interest and curiosity”.

“Nature has evolved these systems through a million years of evolution.”

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