"Go to the ant and be wise"

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So said Solomon the Wise.

Consider this. Childcare, cultivation, farming, climate control, communication, defence, career planning, engineering, security, flood control, civic duties..... We are not talking about an advanced human society. We are talking about ants.

Myrmecologists, the scientists who study ants, have shown us such a fascinating world. An inter-disciplinary team at the University of Sheffield is studying ants while working on the making transport systems more effective. Dynamic optimisation as it is called is the main challenge. Simple all powerful computer programs find it difficult cope with numerous datasets that emerge. Hence the solution is more of smaller programs or agents which work with each other to solve the problem. The inspiration came from the ants.

In fact the celebrated Bombay Dabbawala System is something like that. How do you reach hot homecooked lunch to thousands of office goers everyday at an affordable cost? Collect the lunch by 10 am from all houshold, deliver on time, collect empty boxes and deliver back home. They do this with a not-so-educated workforce travelling by public trains day-in and day-out with an astonishing error-free operation for so many years. They achieved six-sigma long before the term was explained. The solution is simplifying the problem. Simple colour codes; specilised and defined responsibilities; and an organisation run as a public trust. Amazing.

And interestingly, ants are also known for war-mongering, cannibalism and slavery! The May 2006 issue of NG has an interview with one of the foremost myrmecologists of today, EO Wilson.

frogmuseum2, Ravages, and 7 other people added this photo to their favorites.

  1. Reciprocity 108 months ago | reply

    A wonderful shot and discourse Pandiyan. Perhaps we should stick to learning just the finer points from nature, unfortunately some of the inherent bad ones seem to be difficult to overcome.

  2. Di..... [deleted] 108 months ago | reply

    Awesome shot!

  3. Reshma Beeranthbail 108 months ago | reply

    So very fascinating! Myrmecologists - that's the word for the day.

    I'd read about the Dabbawalas somewhere. It's interesting how you connected the two.

  4. Pandiyan 108 months ago | reply

    Thanks Alan. As we see, study and scratch nature, curiouser it gets! I almost thought connecting this picture to Laserfly saga and decided against it.

    Thanks Di...

    Thanks ushwink for visiting and commenting though it is not really your type of picture. With my camera, I can only imagine a macro of the smaller one. Even the bigger one was tough.

  5. Reshma Beeranthbail 108 months ago | reply

    Oh, if I just want to hang out with a bunch of fun folks, I visit your page and sure enough, there's usually a discussion going on! I usually get out learning something new. Sounds good to me. I'm guessing that's the motivation to put this pic up in the first place. :-)

  6. Pandiyan 108 months ago | reply

    That is quite flattering, unshwink. Actually a lot of this is part of my effort to learn enough to teach my kids; plus my natural affinity for collecting facts and information. If others like it a bit, that is pretty heartening and encouraging.

  7. martytdx 108 months ago | reply

    Great shot to show the size differences - everyone thinks of ants as small, but hey - here's an even smaller ant. I don't know - I just like it.

  8. Ewa's Oceans 108 months ago | reply

    Excellent shot, Pandiyan !!
    And the story, as usual :-)

  9. Monika N. 108 months ago | reply

    Excellent pic and caption, Pandiyan!
    You made me hurry up and start reading the NG May edition...

  10. Pandiyan 108 months ago | reply

    Thanks Marty. I like the way they seem to be scurrying together. Their speeds were different I had to wait for a while to get two side by side.

    Thanks Ewa. Glad you liked it.

    Thanks Monika. NG should take me in their marketing team!

  11. baby7 108 months ago | reply

    Sometimes they walk as a team of soldiers..Tonight I saw many in my room..WAW!!!great catch!!

  12. Calovi 107 months ago | reply


  13. Tommok [deleted] 107 months ago | reply

    Great capture! :-)
    And as always, Pandiyan provides fascinating information and insights that always get the ol' noggin cogs whirring.

  14. Pandiyan 107 months ago | reply

    Thanks baby. One easy way to prevent ants coming in is to put some sugar outside. They will be happy with that.

    Thanks Calovi.

    Glad you found the info engaging, Tom. I did too.

  15. jinxmcc 107 months ago | reply

    Beautiful shot, Pandiyan. And as always, interesting discussion. We can indeed learn about organization from the ants, but as you point out, there are drawbacks to their method from a human viewpoint. I think of the bit in T.H.White's story of King Arthur's childhood The Sword in the Stone (there's a wonderful learning experience for kids), when Merlyn transforms the boy into an ant. The overriding motto of the ants: "Everything not forbidden is compulsory."

  16. MdEST [deleted] 105 months ago | reply

  17. Morbirrific 58 months ago | reply

    beautiful photo :)

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