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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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.