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November 3, 2016

The honeybee algorithm

What is the most efficient, and profitable, way to allocate computer servers to ever-changing internet traffic? Researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) turned to honeybees to find the solution.

The researchers adapted a decade-old model of how honeybee colonies allocate their foragers among sources of nectar into a novel algorithm for assigning computer servers -- one that is now used by major web hosting companies in a rapidly growing global market worth over $50 billion.

The work earned the scientists -- John J. Bartholdi III, Sunil Nakrani, Thomas D. Seeley, Craig A. Tovey, and John Hagood Vande Vate -- a 2016 Golden Goose Award, which recognizes federally funded basic research that has had significant impact.

NSF funds about 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

Original air date: November 3, 2016.

Credit: For videos: Golden Goose Award; for images: Golden Goose Award/Photos by Rachel Couch (

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