Zero is a very difficult concept to understand. The quantitative measures of things — whether banana bundles, human societies, or wooden blocks for building — are necessary for our existence. But "nothing", the absence of something, from the point of view of the brain, is quite another. People, for example, found it very difficult to understand this concept. Our ability to understand zero as a separate numerical value has become an important part of mathematics, engineering, and technology. But lately, we have learned that other animals also acquired an understanding of “nothing.”
Some primate species and birds like rhesus macaquesand African gray parrots, can define "nothing" as "something." Recently in the journal Science also appeared information that honey bees are also included in the animal club of mathematicians.
The fact that the bees are not fools, we know for a long time. Previously, scientists have found that bees have intelligent mechanisms for counting and dividing objects up to four. This is already impressive. In a new study, scientists from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, wanted to know if bees could understand zero as a separate value. And the team was surprised to learn that they can. Bees distinguish zero from one more often than they do not, and this success grows when higher values are compared with zero.
To force bees to count, scientists usedsweetened water as a reward. Bees were shown cards with a different number of characters, and they received sugar water when they sat down on a card with fewer characters. The bees understood the task and always flew to the card with fewer characters. Amazing. Then the scientists showed the bees the cards on which there was either one character or nothing. The bees made the right choice, indicating that they understand that “nothing” is less than one in the numerical scale. It was even easier for the bees to distinguish between zero and a larger number, four or five.
Like animals with so fewdo neurons understand this complex mathematical concept? Scientists do not know so far. But research shows that a "mathematically talented" species has a group of neurons - "neurons of numbers" - can work especially in the direction of numerical comparisons and quantitative understanding. These cells react differently to the number of components presented. Perhaps this is a secret.