University of Syndey researchers are working on the next greatest optimization algorithms. You would think they would be hunkered down in the math or computer science departments working with large multi-core processors. Yet Chris Reid and Madeleine Beekman, working with David Sumpter of Uppsala Univ., are studying how ants solve the shortest path problem. By studying how ants solve complex and dynamic problems such as getting food back to their colony they could unravel some new and innovative ways to solve routing problems. The researchers published their results in Journal of Experimental Biology.
There has already been some algorithms developed out of studying the ants. One method is the Ant Colony Optimisation (ACO) algorithms. Ants solve the complex problem of shortest path by communicating to other ants in the colony by pheromone trails. Each ant leaves a pheromone trail as a signal back to a following ant. The trail has a certain "optimal path" signal telling other ants the best way to get to the intended destination.
It would be really interesting to find out that the best shortest path algorithm might have been literally under our noses the entire time. This will be an interesting study to follow for the Operations Research community.