• Feb 7, 2009
Have you ever sat for a couple of hours and just watched ants work? Unless you have a government grant or just no life at all, probably not. They're actually quite fascinating according to The Discovery Channel. They (the ants, not TDC) can carry 10-50 times their own weight, get more done before dawn than you do in a month, can fill out 1040-EZ forms without the worksheets and never, ever get caught in traffic jams.
That last ant fact is from the research of one of those grant-funded ant watchers who spent the last 8 years watching the tiny insects' behavior. Audrey Dussutour of the University of Sydney, observed that even on a path as slim as a tree branch, leafcutter ants optimized their going and coming traffic with no entomological pileups.

And how is this supposed to help you during gridlock Monday morning? For starters, slow down. Apparently, not being in such a hurry to get somewhere could actually speed up the flow of human traffic. Dussutour observed that when faster-moving ants not carrying a load got behind slower, load-bearing ants, they chose patience instead of passing the pokey ant, which actually allowed the overall colony to move faster.

Which leads to the part that interests us most. Researchers are using algorythms developed from the ant behaviors to develop a multi-car navigation system that could one day lead to those driverless cars we've been hearing about for 50 years. Let's just hope that whatever they come up with, our robocars come equipped with anti-magnifying glass beam protection, otherwise we're all fried.

[Source: Wired Science | Photo: Audrey Dussutour]


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  • 28 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think slower driving is actuall quicker for everyone,as there are less accidents - this is what causes major delays on our motorways in the uk.

      We deliver throughout the UK and the only time we are ever delayed is after a major pile up where people cannot stop in time.
      Liz - www.northernferrarihire.com
      • 5 Years Ago
      LMAO! Best one yet!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ants aren't egotistic and work for the greater good. Instead we humans are always in such a rush thinking our own individual lives and timeframes are important than anything else. Thats the key..

      We can all attest to that personally and from observation. The "power" exec in his 7 series cutting you off, the soccer mom in the SUV, the ricer in his buzzbomb or the out-to-lunch teen in her Jetta. Each one of them lost in their own little world cutting in line and potentially causing an accident that slows the rest of traffic down to a grinding halt.

      Civility and common sense go a long way to prevent all this.
        • 5 Years Ago
        ...to say nothing of the side-by-side road lovers in [whatever car it is that you drive] who consistently drive 3mph under the limit, and never leave each others' sides, even when it's bloody obvious there's a ten mile tailback caused just by two idiots.

        Or the "gotta be ahead of you" nutcase in a Camry who just cannot accept that someone might have the skills to be able to negotiate (shock!) a bend in the road, and has to squeeze that gap you were going to use to break out of the jam and into the clear road ahead.

        Yes indeed, there are more than four kinds of idiot on the roads, and you might be one of them.

        I'm the guy who's trying to make use of the clear road ahead and sitting precisely 18" to the left of your center line to signal by position that I want to get past you, you ignorant twit and when are you going to use your mirrors?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't buy this at all. First of all, aren't ants going to deduct their moving expenses? You can't do that with the 1040ez. And am I seriously supposed to believe that they won't take the time to fill out the Additional Child Tax Credit worksheet, I mean, they have like what, 10,000 kids?
      • 5 Years Ago
      If one ant brushes against another ant it's no big deal. Plus no one gets killed. In cars that doesn't apply. Ants don't have 'traffic calming' devices either. They're probably looking to get each other through as quickly as possible, not trying to slow each other down.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I agree. I used to race from stop-light to stop-light and it used to be frustrating and I barely used to make up much ground (and just burn more fuel and tax my brakes). Nowadays, I use my strategy of "flow". I sit back and instead pick spots opening up and smoothly gain ground by smartly going around idiots and choke points. It's smooth, I never am in danger of getting a speeding ticket and yet I always manage to beat a whole bunch of reds and heavy traffic.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Skynet! Take me to the mall
      • 5 Years Ago
      I used to eat ants alive when i was a baby. Sour
      • 5 Years Ago
      Assuming that:

      Average driver = Average Consumer

      and

      Average Driver < Ant

      therefore

      Average Consumer < Ant

      and

      Average Consumer -------> Terrible car designs being sold

      Thus we can conclude:

      Ants would design more kickass cars than the Average consumer.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Having studied some logic at school, I can tell you that is a perfectly valid truth functional inference you just made there. :P
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Go to the ant you sluggard."

      Almost all ants (and aunts) are females.

      This only proves that women are better drivers and can handle business better and more efficiently.

      No surprise to me, doh.
        • 5 Years Ago
        John

        Larger doesn't mean its better.

        What you rather have?
        a HUMVEE H1 or
        a LAMBORGHINI GALLARDO SUPERLEGGERA?

        Touchez mon amie. Gotcha, again!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'd take the H1.

        I'd run the owner of the Lambo over, then hitch his car up and tow it home with me.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Women are better drivers? HA. Don't make me laugh. Oh wait, you just did. 99% of the time that I see someone doing something stupid on the road, it's a female. Never mind parking...
        • 5 Years Ago
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well done Jamie. You have won this round, but I shall use my larger brain to figure out a retort as long as I don't get distracted by women/cars/explosions/flashing lights/women/food/videogames.
        • 5 Years Ago
        So true.

        I remember my friend's "aunt" Jackie... so not a chick.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This line of thinking is also vindicated re: evacuating an airliner. If everyone is orderly, then people get out quickly. If people panic and crush towards the doors, noone gets out.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Didn't Volvo use another type of bug (I think it was a swarm of locusts) to figure out how these bugs don't get in accidents to develop their (Volvo's) own accident protection systems? In any case, it's pretty cool.
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