1+2=3? Just Ask A BEE! - The Scientific Buzz On Bees & Math What in the world is a Fibonacci Sequence? Where in the world can you spot one in the wild? And why in the world is that BEE adding and subtracting at the lightening speed of a child?! Join Guy Raz and Mindy as they explore the latest scientific buzz on bees and their newly discovered ability to do...MATH! It's the Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and Wow in the world of BEE BRAINS!
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1+2=3? Just Ask A BEE! - The Scientific Buzz On Bees & Math

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1+2=3? Just Ask A BEE! - The Scientific Buzz On Bees & Math

1+2=3? Just Ask A BEE! - The Scientific Buzz On Bees & Math

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/699541145/699546565" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Hey, Wowzer fams (ph). Before we start the show, I've got some exciting news to shine on the Sunshine State. As you may have heard, I am bringing the Wow in the World Pop Up Party to my hometown of Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, April 6. And to celebrate, we are giving away one golden ticket that includes a special prize pack of WOW IN THE WORLD goodies. One lucky family will win it all.

Grown-ups, for more information on how to enter, just visit our WOW IN THE WORLD Facebook page for details. Also, there are still tickets available for our Washington, D.C., show on March 24. But if you're planning on coming to the show, you might want to hurry up and snag yours, as they are going fast. Our upcoming Atlanta show has already sold out. For tickets, just visit tinkercast.com/events. That's tinkercast.com/events.

And again, if you live in the Tampa Bay area, visit our WOW IN THE WORLD Facebook page for more on how your family can win our golden ticket prize pack for our show at the Tampa Theater on Saturday, April 6. That's it. Now let's get on with a brand-new episode of WOW IN THE WORLD.


THE POP UPS: Three, two, one. Ignition.

Get ready for an adventure of magnificent proportion.

(Singing) I don't know what you've been told, but we're in a golden age. So many discoveries that are jumping off the page. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world.

With Guy and Mindy.

We're on our way, Houston.


(Singing) Will you be left in the dust unless I stuck by ya? You're a sunflower. You're a sunflower. Every time I'm leaving on you, you don't make it easy. No, no. You don't make it...

THOMAS: Hey, Guy Raz-y (ph).

RAZ: Hi, Mindy.

THOMAS: What are you doing out here in the community garden so early?

RAZ: You know what they say.

THOMAS: Yep. The early worm gets the bird. Then you can't eat it 'cause it doesn't have teeth.

RAZ: I hadn't heard that one.

THOMAS: So what are you doing out here, anyway?

RAZ: I was just doing some math exercises.

THOMAS: Math exercises?

RAZ: Yeah.

THOMAS: In the sunflower patch of a community garden?

RAZ: I know. Isn't it perfect?

THOMAS: Well, I'll tell you what I'm doing here. I am collecting sunflower seeds for a new energy bar recipe that Reggie and I are working on.

RAZ: Energy bar?

THOMAS: Yeah. There's a big opportunity in the energy-bar-for-birds industry. Thinking of starting a little business.

RAZ: Yeah? What's that?

THOMAS: Energy bars for birds.

RAZ: Huh.

THOMAS: We're going to shove a bunch of sunflower seeds inside each bar, call 'em paleo.

RAZ: Birds going paleo?

THOMAS: I know. Genius, right? Reggie came up with the idea to turn this concept for bird energy bars into a business after he'd been listening to episode after episode of this one podcast, called, How I Bird This (ph). Have you heard of it?

RAZ: Can't say I have.

THOMAS: Yeah. It's nuts. It features all of these birds and all the cool stuff that they built, like bird houses that you can rent out to other birds for a night.

RAZ: Huh.

THOMAS: And then there was this one episode of this bird-owned company, called, Warbler Parker (ph), where you can get these flying goggles to try on at home, and if you don't like 'em, you send 'em back.

RAZ: That...

THOMAS: Anywho, you should totally check out the show. It's called How I Bird This. I think you're really going to like the host. In fact, you kind of remind me of him.

RAZ: (Whistling).

THOMAS: Guy Raz, where are you going?

RAZ: (Whistling).

THOMAS: Wait up. You never explained why you were in the middle of all these sunflowers doing math exercises, or what those exercises even are.

RAZ: That's right. See you later.

THOMAS: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Guy Raz? I know that look anywhere. You are up to something. Guy Raz, were you in here doing a scientific investigation without me?

RAZ: Well, what makes you think that?

THOMAS: Well, for starters, you're wearing the Handy Dandy 5D Sensory Hat-D.

RAZ: This thing? I didn't even notice. I just grabbed the first hat I could find as I walked out the door. You know, with this strong sunlight, always better to be extra cautious.

THOMAS: Extra cautious, my math. Guy Raz, you are totally up to something.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Dennis) Hi, Mindy. Hi, Guy.

RAZ: Hi, Dennis.

THOMAS: Hi, Dennis.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Dennis) Whatcha (ph) doin?

THOMAS: You know, we were just about to...

RAZ: Search for the Fibonacci sequence.

THOMAS: Yeah. See? Nothing too exciting.

The what?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Dennis) You two, Liberace had a lot of sequins. You shouldn't have to search for them. I mean, unless he was walking around here back in the '70s, and some blue sequins fell from one of his exotic costumes and into the yard.

RAZ: Huh. Interesting. Well, I'm actually talking about a mathematical concept, known as the Fibonacci sequence, where each number in the sequence is the sum of the two numbers before it.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Dennis) Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I understood none of that. Now my brain hurts so I'm going to go lay down.

RAZ: OK. Well, thanks, Dennis. Bye.

THOMAS: Yeah. Peace out, Dennis.

Uh. That was close. OK. Guy Raz, what is going on? First I find you in the community garden. You're standing in the midst of all of these sunflowers. Then you say that you're here to do math exercises. Plus, you're wearing a full lab coat and the Handy Dandy, 5D Sensory Hat-D. And now there's something about sequins and nachos?

RAZ: No. No, Mindy. Not nachos. The Fibonacci sequence. Though, I do have to say, I made a pretty mean batch of kale and tofu-cheese nachos last night. You've got to try them next time I make them.

THOMAS: Yeah, I think I'll take a pass. So you were saying something about Fibber-nacci (ph)?

RAZ: Well, Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician who lived more than 800 years ago in the city of Pisa.

THOMAS: Oh, like where the Leaning Tower of Pisa is.

RAZ: Exactly.

THOMAS: Wait. Do you still have that Leaning Tower of Pisa Jell-O sculpture you made that one time?

RAZ: Don't you remember? You ate it.

THOMAS: That's right. I did eat it.

RAZ: Anyway, Fibonacci was particularly interested in patterns. I love patterns - plaids, stripes, polka dots, paisley.

RAZ: Well, not exactly those patterns - more like patterns that he noticed in nature.


RAZ: (As Fibonacci) Giuseppe, Leonardo, come quickly. You must look at this apple.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Leonardo) What? What is it? The red delicious?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Fibonacci) It is delicious. But look at what happens when I slice it across its hemisphere. You see? It is right here.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Leonardo) I just see the inside of an apple.

RAZ: (As Fibonacci) Ah, but you see, at the center, there is a star.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Leonardo) And?

RAZ: (As Fibonacci) And that star has five points. It's part of a sequence. Everything in nature is connected to the sequence.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Leonardo) Fibonacci, I'm afraid I don't understand.

RAZ: (As Fibonacci) Well, if I take the number zero and add the number one, what do I get?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Leonardo) Well, of course, you will get the one because one plus zero is one.

RAZ: (As Fibonacci) That is correct. So now let's say I take another one, and I add it to one.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Leonardo) Easy. One plus one is two.

RAZ: (As Fibonacci) Now what happens when I add the two and the one?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Leonardo) Well, two plus one is three. Where is this going, Fibonacci?

RAZ: (As Fibonacci) A-ha. Now it gets interesting. What if I add three and two?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Leonardo) Three plus two is five.

RAZ: (As Fibonacci) And that is the Fibonacci sequence. You start with a number. And then you add it to the number before it. And you get a new number.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Leonardo) Fibonacci, I am still not following.

RAZ: (As Fibonacci) Well, it's like this - 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89. You catching my drift?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Leonardo) Oh, of course. Each number is the number you get when you add up the two numbers before it.

RAZ: (As Fibonacci) And, Leonardo, you can find these numbers represented in things like flowers, in pine cones, even inside the human body.


THOMAS: Huh. So this guy, Fibonacci, who sounds awfully familiar, figured out that there's a mathematical pattern in almost every part of nature?

RAZ: Well, yeah. And, in fact, Mindy that's why I'm in this sunflower patch.

THOMAS: OK. So how do we find the Fibonacci sequence in a sunflower?

RAZ: Ah. Well, that's precisely what I'm going to try and find out using my Handy Dandy 5D Sensory Hat-D.

THOMAS: Of course, because the 5D D Sensory Hat-D helps to magnify - or increase - all your senses. So that way...

RAZ: That way, I'll be able to see the parts of the Sunflower really well. And I won't need a magnifying glass.

THOMAS: Well, good thing I brought along my own 5D Sensory Hat-D. Let me just get it out of my adventure toolkit here, put it on. Now let's go find some Fibonacci numbers.

RAZ: All right. Let's see here. Look at this beautiful sunflower - just a perfect specimen of a flower.

THOMAS: And look how many petals the sunflower has - one, two, three, four, 55 - I've counted 55 petals.

RAZ: That's it. A Fibonacci number - 55 is a Fibonacci number.

THOMAS: What in the wow? Guy Raz, it bonkerballs that we can find math all around us all the time, 24/7... get away. Ouch.

RAZ: Mindy, watch out for that bee. It seems a little aggressive.

THOMAS: Get away from here, bee. Stop being all up in my bees-ness (ph). Shoo. Shoo, bee. Shoo.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As bee) Hey, this is my flower. I was here first.

RAZ: Mindy, who just said that?

THOMAS: I think it was the bee?

RAZ: Hang on a minute. I think the Handy Dandy 5D Sensory Hat is giving us superpower hearing right now.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As bee) As I said, this is my flower. Get lost.

THOMAS: What in the...

RAZ: Well, Mr. Bee, sorry. We didn't realize you were here first. We were just searching for some mathematics in nature. And we didn't intend to disturb you.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As bee) Well, you did disturb me. I'm just minding my own buzz-ness (ph). And you humans are droning on and on like drones. Why don't you buzz off?

RAZ: Mr. Bee, are you trying to tell us something?

THOMAS: Wait a minute, Guy Raz. We may have hurt his little bee feelings.

RAZ: Mindy, what in the world are you talking about?

THOMAS: You know what? Let's just ask the bee, OK? Excuse me. Hi, little bee. What are you doing right now?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As bee) I was doing my homework - math homework, to be exact.

RAZ: Math homework? Wait a minute. What is going on?

THOMAS: Guy Raz, this is that study I was going to tell you about.

RAZ: What study?

THOMAS: The new study I read about in the journal Science Advances.

RAZ: Well, what's it about?

THOMAS: You ready for it?

RAZ: Yeah.

THOMAS: It's amazing.


THOMAS: This one's really going to blow your mind.

RAZ: All right. Spit it out.

THOMAS: I'm so excited to tell you.

RAZ: Mindy, just tell me.

THOMAS: Bees can do math?

RAZ: Bees can do math?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As bee) What's the matter? Never seen a bee count to zero before?

THOMAS: Here, Guy Raz. You've got to check out the study for yourself. I even brought along the journal with me. Heads up.

RAZ: Mindy, this is amazing.

THOMAS: Tell me about it. So we've known for a long time that doing math requires a certain combination of brainpower mixed with a scoop of memory.

RAZ: And scientists have known that some animals like chimps, ravens, even spiders can understand basic math.

THOMAS: Yeah. But some scientists at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, wanted to find out if bees could also understand basic math, like addition and subtraction.

RAZ: Like one plus two or three minus one.

THOMAS: Exactly. So one of the scientists named Scarlett Howard decided to see if she could train bees to add and subtract.

RAZ: This is amazing, Mindy. It says here that Dr. Howard made a special enclosure - or bee house - shaped like the letter Y.

THOMAS: Yeah. And if the bee went to one arm of the Y it would taste delicious, sweet sugar water.

RAZ: But if the bee went to the other arm of the Y, it would taste bitter water made with something called quinine.

THOMAS: The researchers then decided to put five different shapes on a piece of paper that the bees could see as they entered the bee house.

RAZ: And each shape was blue. Blue represented addition. In other words, each time the bees would see blue shapes, they were supposed to add another shape to the picture.

THOMAS: So when the bee flew into the bee house and saw two blue triangles...

RAZ: ...It would have to decide what two plus one is.

THOMAS: Which, of course, is three.

RAZ: Right. And so at that point, the bee would have to either fly to a picture of three triangles...

THOMAS: Which would be the right answer.

RAZ: Or a picture with one triangle.

THOMAS: Which would be the wrong answer.

RAZ: And, of course, if the bee picked the right answer, it got sugar water.

THOMAS: And look, Guy Raz. They did the same experiment with yellow shapes. But the color yellow was supposed to represent subtraction. So every time a bee saw two yellow triangles, it had to find the answer with one yellow triangle.

RAZ: Because, of course, two minus one is one.

THOMAS: Right. But here's the crazy thing. After about three hours of training the bees in trying to understand math, the researchers started to mix it up. Sometimes, the problems were five minus one or four plus one or three minus one or plus one.

RAZ: Which is slightly more complex.

THOMAS: Yeah. And what the researchers noticed was that after three or four hours of training, the bees were getting the answer right on the first try 70 percent of the time.

RAZ: Wow. That's like being right 7 out of 10 times. That's amazing.

THOMAS: Totally. So what this means is that maybe even creatures with teeny, tiny brains can understand and perform basic math.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As bee) Hey. I may be a bee of little brain, but your bee-hive-ior (ph) downright stings.

THOMAS: Oh, sorry, little bee.

RAZ: Yeah, sorry. We had no idea you were out here doing math just like us.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As bee) You're over there counting to three. And I'm bee-sy (ph) calculating beeswax efficiency of the hexagonal prismatic honeycomb. And I'm very bee-hind (ph). Now shoo.

THOMAS: Wait. Did he just say...

RAZ: Oh, sure. We were just on our way anyway.

THOMAS: Yeah. We were just going to collect some sunflower seeds for my bird paleo bars. Guy Raz, looking at the recipe here, it looks like we're going to need 4,181 seeds.

RAZ: Hey, that's a Fibonacci number - 2,584 plus 1,597.

THOMAS: Wow. Or if we're really ambitious, we can collect, say, 6,765 sunflower seeds.

RAZ: Another Fibonacci - 2,584 plus 4,181.

THOMAS: Or if we wanted to, we could just go back to my house and make some Fibo-nachos (ph).

RAZ: I got it. How about we take 89 tortilla chips, add 21 jalapenos, 13 olives, 55 grams of beans...


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: WOW IN THE WORLD will be right back. Grown-ups, this message is for you.

That's it. Back to the show.


THE POP UPS: (Singing) Wow in the world.


THOMAS: Hi. Thanks for calling WOW IN THE WORLD. After the beep, get ready to record.


ANDREW: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name is Andrew (ph). And I'm from Northern California. And my wow in the world is that the Great Wall of China is held together by sticky rice. Bye. I don't like your show. I love your show.


ALENNY: Hello, Mindy and Guy Raz and Reggie.


ALENNY: My name is Alenny (ph). And I live in Washington, D.C. And my wow in the world is that you only catch the chicken pox once. Love your podcast - XOXO.


TYSON: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name is Tyson (ph), and I'm from Greenville, Mich. My wow in the world is that pigs can learn the same tricks as dogs but faster.


SHANNA: Hi. My name is Shanna (ph). I live in Tampa, Fla. And my wow in the world is that baby alligators' gender depends on the temperature.


TYSON: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name is Mira (ph). I'm from Ontario in Canada. And my wow in the world it's that dogs can smell diseases like cancer.


GABBY: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz.

CAROLYN: My name is Carolyn (ph).

GABBY: And my name is Gabby (ph).

GABBY AND CAROLYN: And we live in Providence, R.I. And our wow in the world is that poison oak and poison ivy is part of the cashew family.


JOSIE ELLISON: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name is Josie Ellison (ph). And I'm from Sydney, Australia. My wow in the world is that lizards drop their tails when they're scared. Bye, Mindy and Guy Raz. Love your show.


JULIAN: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz. My name is Julian (ph), and I live in Glens Falls, N.Y. My wow in the world in that an ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain. Bye.


NORA AND EMERSON: Hi, Mindy and Guy Raz.

NORA: My name is Nora (ph).

EMERSON: And my name's Emerson (ph).

NORA: We live in St. Louis Park, Minn.

EMERSON: And our wow in the world is...

NORA: In Chicago, Ill., there is a restaurant where they make edible balloons out of...

EMERSON: And they float. Thanks.

NORA: Thanks. P.S., we'd to ride in your motor pickle so much.

EMERSON: And we love your show.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: End of messages.

THOMAS: Hey, everyone. Thank you so much for hanging out with us this week on WOW IN THE WORLD.

RAZ: And to keep the wow rolling, check out this week's scientific conversation starters at our website wowintheworld.com.

THOMAS: And, grown-ups, there you can find more info on how your kids can become members of the World Organization of Wowzers, shop our Wow shop, upload photos and videos to us and check dates for our upcoming live events. That's wowintheworld.com.

RAZ: Our show is produced by Jed Anderson.

THOMAS: Who provides the bells, whistles and silly characters. Say hello, Jed.


THOMAS: Our show is written by me, Guy Raz and Thomas van Kalken, who also provides silly characters. Tom?


RAZ: Thanks also to Jessica Boddy, Casey Koeffer (ph), Rebecca Caban (ph), Kit Ballenger (ph) and Alex Curley. Meredith Halpern-Ranzer powers the wow at Tinkercast.

THOMAS: Our theme song was composed and performed by The Pop Ups. For more info on their two-time-Grammy-nominated, all-ages music, find them at thepopups.com.

RAZ: And, grown-ups, you can follow WOW IN THE WORLD on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @wowintheworld. And our email address is hello@wowintheworld.com.

THOMAS: And if you're a kid with a big wow to share with us, call us at 1-888-7-WOW-WOW for a chance to be featured at the end of the show.

RAZ: Also, if you haven't already done so, please subscribe to WOW IN THE WORLD on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

THOMAS: Yeah. Leave us a few stars, a review. Or just tell a friend about the show.

RAZ: Thanks again for listening. And until next time...




THE POP UPS: (Singing) Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world. Wow in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: WOW IN THE WORLD made by Tinkercast and sent to you by NPR.

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