Flight of the bumblebee banner


A live experiment

This exhibition was, like all our public work, a live experiment, in this case an experiment into how bees – and by extension humans – learn to see colour (in the setting of a gallery). Bumblebees lived in a Plexiglas cube called the ‘Bee Matrix’, where were set the task to learn a concept. The concept was the ‘bluest’, which is a complicated task requiring the bees to learn the relationships between objects, rather than their absolute qualities.

During the experiment, the flight of the bee was tracked in three dimensions with an accuracy of 1mm. The flight path of the same bee was then etched into large crystal glass blocks, and the blocks staked into five 2-metre towers that were illuminated from below. Each tower 2 minutes in the learning history of the same bee, which means what viewers were really seeing is the process by which we all learn to behave: First our behaviours are random, following a process of trial-by-error; then we become accurate but tentative; finally our confidence grows in what we believe and thus our behaviour more directed. And yet we can never know what is really there; only what was useful to know before.

The installation

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Click on image for slideshow.

The Science Gallery

The Science Gallery (in Dublin, Ireland) is a world first. A new type of venue where today's white-hot scientific issues are thrashed out and you can have your say. A place where ideas meet and opinions collide. Please see www.sciencegallery.ie for more information.

Exhibition highlights

Please see click hereto view a short film of the exhibition

For sale

The crystal cubes and towers are available for sale. For more information, click here

See also

The Bee matrix: seeing bees see
The live experiment that provides the source material for the bee cubes.