The researchers trained the bees to associate a platform that had fewer shapes on it with the sweet reward, until they made the right choice 80 per cent of the time. The bees were put through further tests with differently shaped objects to confirm that they were responding to the number of shapes and not their appearance. Next, when given a choice between two or three shapes and “zero” shapes, bees picked zero most of the time.Good experiment. Not hugely surprising, despite the tiny brain. Intelligence is turning out to be independent of neuron count or brain volume. I'd argue that this isn't about Zero in the sense of roman vs arabic number systems. This is more about establishing a template and knowing when reality violates the template. Immediate example: My kitchen faucet has developed a leak at the rotator joint for the spout. Until I get around to ordering a new gasket, I'm trying to avoid the positions that leak the most. Last night when washing dishes I left the spout over the soap-holding pan instead of turning it to the right over the egg pan as I normally do after filling the soap-holding pan. When I finished the stuff in the soap-holding pan and dipped the washcloth into the egg pan to start scrubbing, ALARM ALARM ALARM SOMETHING IS WRONG! Oh. The water in the egg pan was room temperature instead of warm, because the faucet hadn't been over the egg pan for the previous three minutes as it usually is. Every minuscule detail of a well-developed habit is ALARM ALARM ALARM when any sensed measurement is off by more than a difference limen. When the bees have formed the habit of expecting some shape objects on the platform, the absence of shape objects is ALARM ALARM ALARM! Brain expects things on platform! No things on platform! Etymology of NOUGHT: Middle English noght, from Old English nōwiht, which in turn comes from ne-ā-wiht, which was a phrase used as an emphatic "no", meaning "not a thing". Zero in numeration is a more abstract concept, which developed separately from seeing and marking a NO-THING where things are expected. Few minutes later: Ordered the gasket. ALARM can be useful.
Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.