See how the ants drip like syrup?
December 28, 2013 4:40 AM   Subscribe

At first, I read this as Psychiatrists Study Fire Ants.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:31 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

After a sudden flood, fire ants will arrange themselves into solid rafts several inches thick and be carried downstream, or just float around if they're in a pond. They say if you touch one of these blobs with your paddle, they will swarm up the handle into your canoe. I've wondered if the ones on the bottom drown for the sake of the colony, or if they take turns on the top.
posted by Banish Misfortune at 6:51 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

"The researchers also found that ants underneath the water support those above them, but they do not drown because of trapped air pockets that surround their bodies and buoy the raft." Link

Fuck fire ants.
posted by chiababe at 7:05 AM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

"In bridge construction, for instance, interest is great in materials that automatically repair cracks. The ants are experts at this kind of repair. When they turn themselves into a bridge for other ants, which they do often, they scramble to quickly repair breaks in any damage to the structure"

In the future, bridges, offices, and even our homes will be constructed out of fire-ants. Self-healing, but everyone-else-harming.
posted by aubilenon at 7:29 AM on December 28, 2013 [15 favorites]

Thanks for the explanation, Chiababe! Now I'm off to get fuel for my flamethrower.
posted by Banish Misfortune at 7:31 AM on December 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Self-organizing behavior in general is fascinating. A pretty well-established technique in solving optimization problems works like an ant colony. That simulates the way in which they communicate with pheromones. But it seems that fire ants at least can function in complex ways as a swarm without that outside medium of communication, and it would be interesting to see what these physicists can learn from that.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:50 AM on December 28, 2013

He's poking the ants with a ruler, please make him stop, it only makes them angrier.
posted by arcticseal at 8:30 AM on December 28, 2013

Thanks for the explanation, Chiababe! Now I'm off to get fuel for my flamethrower.

Dude, they are fire ants. Special abilities: form raft; immune to fire; for every 5000 fire ants, 1 shaman ant capable of summoning lesser fire elemental.
posted by nubs at 8:31 AM on December 28, 2013 [16 favorites]

Thanks a lot. I watched 41 seconds of it and now I itch like crazy. Can't watch any more cuz I have to go shower.
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:39 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

It never ceases to amaze me how such neurologically simple creatures manage to display such complex behaviors when operating en masse. A lone ant is sort of like a tiny organic robot, responding in a mostly deterministic fashion in response to the rather limited selection of stimuli that her streamlined, minimized neural hardware is capable of receiving. A colony of ants however -- composed of nothing more than a large number of individual ants in close proximity -- is able to manage some incredibly complicated tasks: rafting, hive building, division of labor (with specialization), fungus farming, aphid and caterpillar husbandry... the list is literally unending, as we are discovering new and ever-more-surprising examples all the time. It's really quite wonderful, and I wish I understood it better. We have a lot to learn from ants, I think -- and we are only just starting to scratch the surface.
posted by Scientist at 11:00 AM on December 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Is the insinuation here that their hivealicious aliveness is the catalyst for group solid/fluid behaviour? I'm inclined to think they would act the same way if dead, just because they're sproingy little things with raspy leggy bits.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:24 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

wouldn't the sproingy little bits then act as a solid? I don't understand the science at all, but I guess the weird contradiction is that they can act like a liquid and bloop out of the funnel but then sproing around like a rubbery ant ball

sometimes i feel like ants are here to prepare us for the freaky shit we see when we find life, say, under the ice on Europa
posted by angrycat at 5:21 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does anyone know the song that is backing the video? Help my uncultured ass out.
posted by Halogenhat at 5:23 PM on December 28, 2013

I'm already at extreme nightmare risk by having played Left 4 Dead 2 earlier today. Not watching. Nope.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:17 PM on December 28, 2013

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