The Remarkable Physics of Ants: Watch Them Turn into Fluids and Solids at Will

Ants nev­er cease to amaze us. Over the years here, we’ve watched them cre­ate a liv­ing life raft in 100 sec­onds flatbuild sur­pris­ing­ly com­plex ant colonies, and demon­strate an uncan­ny kind of cen­tral­ized intel­li­gence. Now let’s add to the list the ways in which they can col­lec­tive­ly act like a flu­id or a sol­id, depend­ing on the demands of a sit­u­a­tion.

These obser­va­tions were made by sci­en­tists at the Geor­gia Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy, who record­ed the video above and pre­sent­ed it at a 2013 meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Phys­i­cal Soci­ety. Watch­ing the video, you can see ants wield­ing pow­ers that we’ve only oth­er­wise seen demon­strat­ed in sec­ond tier super­heroes (no offense to the Won­der Twins intend­ed). And yet, accord­ing to The New York Times, these remark­able pow­ers may have some prac­ti­cal impli­ca­tions, lead­ing sci­en­tists to devel­op self-assem­bling robots and self-heal­ing mate­ri­als. By watch­ing ants build and repair bridges for them­selves, we can imag­ine cre­at­ing bridges that auto­mat­i­cal­ly repair their own cracks here in the mate­r­i­al world.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Physics Cours­es

Watch The Amaz­ing 1912 Ani­ma­tion of Stop-Motion Pio­neer Ladis­las Stare­vich, Star­ring Dead Bugs

Can Ants Count? Do They Have Built-In Pedome­ters? Ani­mat­ed Video Explains

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.