It’s Official: I’m Less Intelligent Than a Worm

That’s because your common roundworm can do calculus and I can’t:

Like humans with a nose for the best restaurants, roundworms also use their senses of taste and smell to navigate. And now, researchers may have found how a worm’s brain does this: It performs calculus.

Worms calculate how much the strength of different tastes is changing—equivalent to the process of taking a derivative in calculus—to figure out if they are on their way toward food or should change direction and look elsewhere, says University of Oregon biologist Shawn Lockery…

I will sometimes also use my math skillz to acquire food, but in my case, it’s usually limited to “do I have to dip into the ‘take a penny’ dish to buy this Snickers bar?” Which is not the same thing, I suppose. Stupid nematodes.

You ask, but John, you are both a science fiction writer and a science blogger — aren’t you required to know calculus? By law? Well, apparently not. And in fact, I was the only person in my graduating high school class not to have taken calculus, a fact that drove my school’s entire mathematics department insane. Occasionally, one of the math teachers would corner me and try to coerce me into it:

Math Teacher: Come on, John. All the other seniors are taking calculus. You won’t be cool if you don’t.

Me:But I don’t have to, do I. The school doesn’t require me to, does it.

Math Teacher: Well, technically not…

Me: We’re done here. 

I went back for my 20th year reunion last year and apparently the math department still holds it against me. Please don’t tell them that even worms can do calculus. I’ll never hear the end of it.


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