It is a little known fact of science history that one of Benjamin
Franklin’s pastimes was training ants to act cooperatively as a type of
early, organic computer.
His greatest success was with a colony of
Camponotus pennsylvanicus which he persuaded to infiltrate a disused
By observing their complex interactions within the
barrel’s circumference, he discovered he could determine pi to as many
places as he wanted or needed. In a fever of excitement, he set out to
publish his discovery, but he had got no further than a title for his
book when his gardener stole the barrel, intending to ride it over the
Niagara falls for fame, fortune and the love of Franklin’s chambermaid.
Needless to say the barrel turned to powder the moment it made contact
with water and the gardener drowned along with Franklin’s
supercomputing colony. All that remains of the venture is the book’s
tantalising title: “The Pi Rates of Ben’s Ants”