The bizarre physics of fire ants


Joss: I guess my first question is… What makes fire ants interesting to a bunch
of engineers? David Hu: Fire ants are one of the few insects
capable of building big structures with their bodies. And they can do it by linking their bodies together. That means fire ants aren’t just animals— they can also be seen as a sort of material that you can test like a fabric or a gel. And you can trace that behavior back to their
evolutionary history. Red imported fire ants are native to floodplains
in South America, where the rainy season regularly inundates
their underground homes. The ants that stick together and stay with
the queen have a better chance of reproducing, so they’ve gotten really good at basically
holding hands and floating until they find a new place to live. In the 1930s or 40s, shipping brought fire
ants to the US and they’ve spread across the southern states. Alabama officials are warning of something that, to me is straight out of a nightmare… It’s a pile of fire ants clustered together
to survive. Now, you can find this invasive species alongside
roads in cities like Atlanta— easy access for the researchers at Georgia Tech, who’ve
done… pretty much anything you could think to do to a colony of fire ants and still call
it science. David Hu: We fed ants iodine which is radioactive… flash freezing this with liquid nitrogen… And then an elastic band to the waist of another ant… and then you coat them in gold. But that’s just standard. They’ve created mathematical models to describe
the ants behavior and they characterize the ant balls as a “viscoelastic
material.” which means they have properties of both a fluid and a solid. David Hu: So they’re a solid in that they’re
elastic, so for example, if I… take a spring, you squish it, it’ll give you back the
energy. But they also act like a viscous fluid when
under stress, breaking and reforming links to dissipate energy in a way that resembles
a slow flow. David Hu: And that’s basically how fluids work. They have very small and weak bonds everywhere— like water has these hydrogen bonds. It’s because the bonds can break and reheal really easily. You can see this happening when they’re
dropped in water. Within a few minutes, they’ve spread out
like a drop of dye. In their study of the towers that fire ants
build after floods, Hu’s team found that the ants release their links when the stress
is more than 2-3 times the weight of an ant. That’s when they transition from solid to
fluid behavior. They’re not sure why the ants build these
towers, but it may have to do with the fact that the ants are more water repellent when
they’re linked together. Which is how they stay afloat during a flood. David Hu: They link their bodies so closely
together they actually generate a weave, like a waterproof fabric. So air bubbles actually have to do work to
escape. The ants aren’t drowning because they can
get air from those bubbles. What’s so incredible about swarming animals
is that there’s no leader directing the colony to do this. And that sort of decentralized, collective
action may be a model for future technologies. David Hu: Modular robotics has been the dream
of roboticists. And they’re
still working on it but these ants have had a couple million years and robotics has only
been around for 40 so, I think robots that do act like a fluid and like a solid, I’m
hoping that this work will inspire more people to pursue that kind of thing.

100 Comments

  1. solidust23 said:

    They study creation to mimic and copy them only to say that there is no CREATOR when they create thier robots

    August 15, 2019
    Reply
  2. lee wuo said:

    Ants have a Queen but never a King wired.

    August 15, 2019
    Reply
  3. Howl 2k said:

    I got a sandal I'd bet my life on

    August 15, 2019
    Reply
  4. Chida Omar said:

    Stunning

    August 15, 2019
    Reply
  5. JC Ramilo said:

    Fire ants huh set in on fire!!!!

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  6. Night of the Sword said:

    So after you poured basically liquid nitrogen. and poured radioactive stuff on these ants, then you coat them in gold?! I love science.

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  7. Night of the Sword said:

    2:04 died

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  8. Prime Wolf said:

    Throw this to your enemy

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  9. I mean Yea ,duh said:

    I came from this is your daily does of internet

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  10. icewallowcome said:

    I bet they won’t survive a hydraulic press

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  11. okokok i know said:

    There's no leader??? So…..we should call them ANTifa??

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  12. Barbara Boros said:

    So creepy and scientific

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  13. ILIIKEOOFERS O00fer SIKE said:

    BRUH LET THEM STAY AT HOME RATHER THEN LITERALLY THROWING THEM INTO LABS

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  14. mel beredo said:

    i remember the big hero six nanobots

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  15. Brother Majik School Of Ancient mysteries said:

    Fire Ants taking over America Confirmed

    August 16, 2019
    Reply
  16. Paris Whithead said:

    If only humans were like fire ants

    August 17, 2019
    Reply
  17. crea the chi boi said:

    I’m so glad that they’re so small.

    August 17, 2019
    Reply
  18. Ahmad Alanazi said:

    Also humans can act like a solid or a liquid if you do these tests on them. Try cutting some humans hand, you will see red liquid anf fluids shoot out.

    August 17, 2019
    Reply
  19. IcognitoDude31 said:

    "I am invicta "

    August 17, 2019
    Reply
  20. Bobby Flores said:

    Million years? Come on man

    August 17, 2019
    Reply
  21. Jennifer Bove said:

    Yuck…….

    August 17, 2019
    Reply
  22. XXXAMSTERDAMXXX HD said:

    Amazing

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  23. David F. V. Silva said:

    Deceptacons

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  24. Dune 44 said:

    They be all like how can we harness the power of the Ants. I be like fill up the jerry can with regular please.

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  25. ErnieMoi said:

    I used to mess with them until I got bit everywhere even if I already had ANTicipated it.

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  26. Bob Smithers said:

    "IODINE"…which is Radioactive.
    Just everything is RADIOACTIVE !

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  27. kookiemonster said:

    I felt itchy watching this…

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  28. lasagna 4layf said:

    Please don't tell me you're gonna make human rafts

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  29. Bryden Greig said:

    Is no one else wanting to punch these engineers in the throat for putting such stress on the ants for their own benefit? 🤷‍♂️

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  30. Bre Kimble said:

    And now we present to you humanity 💁🏾

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  31. Alefosio Veatupu said:

    Michio Kakus new avatar 🤯

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  32. Sarah Burch said:

    Ants are cool

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  33. premiercconstruction said:

    Evolutionary History: please explain what you know about these ants thousands of years ago? Lol. The term Evolutionary History is information based solely on a theory that has been disproven over and over yet net never ever proven. Yet we as educated people still claim evolution theories are fact.

    These ants truly are Amazing. And Man kind has been inspired by nature for literally every form of technology to date. No surprise folks.

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  34. Justin Lee said:

    This guy's trying to figure out advanced robotics while I'm waiting on football season too start…

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  35. Sean Jung said:

    So someone can study elements of nature to improve technology, while others dedicate their lives to changing the word "manhole" cover because they're offended.

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  36. Agapito, Juliano said:

    Even if the water is boiling at 98°C?

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  37. B ANT said:

    It's ok that natures organic creatures are this adaptable. Good luck when you make the breakthrough with un natural machines. Unstoppable

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  38. Caleb Delatorre said:

    I think microscopic HOOKs would stay together like that. Creating shapes and what not. Maybe flexible circles that have an open spot like a chain link.

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  39. Lipzi Michel said:

    The future of technology: fire ants
    People looking at you: she’s mentally ill

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  40. g C said:

    i DESPISE THEM

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  41. g C said:

    Yeah thanks a lot for bringing them over here

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  42. g C said:

    EVIL LITTLE ….ANTS

    August 18, 2019
    Reply
  43. juan carlos said:

    metal liquid…T1000 made of fire ants….:=)

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  44. Cod Slayer said:

    Dem ants are going to become a giant thing and eat my PS4

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  45. John J said:

    Evolution is pseudoscience..

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  46. Woko100 said:

    Wait how are the ants still alive

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  47. Timbo Slice said:

    He’s holding onto that hairline for dear life!

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  48. Adam Blackman said:

    Much like the grey goo doom scenario….

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  49. punkybrewstar83 said:

    Animal scientist and vet nurse here. Ants also have the largest biomass of any other species. But we think that humans are the superior animal. We are ridiculous.

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  50. Alon Suberi said:

    All my ants gold like they coming from Atlanta 🔥😋

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  51. Ohaiderepeeps said:

    I'm getting creepy crawlies while watching this 😨

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  52. Muhammad Saeed said:

    You must be feeling them in your clothes right now !

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  53. Sara said:

    Why not put bleach on them or set them on fire

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  54. SlipperyVox said:

    Hiro Hamada wants to know your location

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  55. PAiN_- _FTW said:

    Save the ants!!!!

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  56. evertime123 said:

    A N T M A N

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  57. Jes Allen said:

    That's the technology they're gonna use to make the terminator 2 machine.

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  58. Jacque Cortez said:

    They are also very mean ants.

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  59. Robert Lauer said:

    Spider photo bomb

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  60. moses 1997 said:

    Antscanada

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  61. Rakshit Jain said:

    You have killed 1000s of ants. Very inhumane😔😔😔

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  62. Aurra Firelilly said:

    3:59 minutes watching the video of fire ants being abused by science :'C

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  63. wa la said:

    Hu?

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  64. Horst Wessel said:

    Thats amazing for the next generation of technology

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  65. Omi Sahay said:

    Insect Cruelty

    August 19, 2019
    Reply
  66. Peter Rakowski said:

    They’re libertarian socialists

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  67. Pro Noob said:

    The things programmed by God.

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  68. Sgt. PUG said:

    It's like slime

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  69. JuggOfficial ResistEvil said:

    New sport: ant ball

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  70. OTTO OCTAVIOUS said:

    The question really is are they adapted 2 flood areas because those who couldn't adapt were wiped out leaving behind only those that could adapt… you see it's not that they evolved an ability to survive it's that they had the information within them that enabled them to survive… I mean where did the information come from that told them to link arms in order to protect themselves when all the others didn't at the end of the day these ants survived in floodplain areas because others could not…they didn't evolve it because of the floodplains they had the ability before the floodplains killed them all… otherwise they would all be dead all over the world if the information wasn't there to begin with.

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  71. Nicolle Siliezar said:

    🤨😡😡😡

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  72. te te said:

    In my opinion this world belongs to the ants. Billions and billions living right beneath our feet, working tirelessly to keep our earth moving

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  73. John M said:

    Resistance is futile

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  74. trevor kener said:

    Where's the peta police? I guess when it comes to bugs we can all agree 😂

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  75. Clarence Mitchell said:

    They will weaponize it when they know they can. He laughed about the experiments. This is why TMH will destroy many people for their abuse of his creation. The reckless disregard for all things he made. The land is polluted. The air is polluted. The water is polluted – Flint, Michigan and other localities. They serve their god, "science". Their god will answer all mans problems. Fools, who can not see, that when man created nuclear materials, they had not engineered the process backwards to begin with. The answer is – how to repurpose "hot water". Like all who disrespect Fathers creation, they dump it in the oceans, put it inside mountains, bury it underground. Today's sciences continually study the (holy) things in creation only to turn their discoveries in to weapons of mass destruction.
    I'm not a luddite. The record speaks for itself. I'm only reporting facts. What do you think reader. Remember, it is still legal to exercise the power of thought-analysis.

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  76. Ragga_Muffin_84 said:

    Can they reflect a blowtorch ?

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  77. Ragga_Muffin_84 said:

    That Chinese guy Probly ate them afterwards

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  78. milplayer19 said:

    Leave the ants alone!

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  79. Lorenzo Qobi said:

    This would be a great technology to devolop for divers and people who work in the oceans. A design of suits which would allow us to cling to eachother in tines of SOS in the ocean. I'm sure lives would be saved.

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  80. Carmen Sidari said:

    This is new in this Mandela Effected reality..

    August 21, 2019
    Reply
  81. williams irudayaraj said:

    I'm calling it now, ant man is controlling them

    August 21, 2019
    Reply
  82. Dawelo Sears said:

    This is Antmazing!!

    August 21, 2019
    Reply
  83. Alfredo Alcantar said:

    So your telling us you want to build T3000 or terminator

    August 21, 2019
    Reply
  84. Ahmed Ali said:

    No ants were harmed, while making this video.

    August 21, 2019
    Reply
  85. Rad Player said:

    Alright, next question.

    About your hair…

    August 21, 2019
    Reply
  86. Hello Sweetheart said:

    So they torture ant's?

    August 21, 2019
    Reply
  87. Chicken Leg said:

    Who else is getting iTcHy

    August 21, 2019
    Reply
  88. Sohail Ahmed said:

    Thats how University extra funding is wasted to get credits and some cash for paying the fees and other expenses

    August 22, 2019
    Reply
  89. Henry the 8th said:

    If only humans could be like fire ants we would live in a better world.

    August 22, 2019
    Reply
  90. kuku love said:

    Poor ants

    August 22, 2019
    Reply
  91. NFRMRY Media said:

    Insanely cool!

    August 22, 2019
    Reply
  92. AJ Kelly said:

    Slimemold is way more interesting.

    August 22, 2019
    Reply
  93. Haring Bayabas said:

    Terminator technology here

    August 22, 2019
    Reply
  94. Angus said:

    Ant abuse

    August 22, 2019
    Reply
  95. Angus said:

    Okay Mr. Asian Charles manson

    He is like a weird mixture of charles manson the saw guy and johnny depp

    August 22, 2019
    Reply
  96. Galaxy Gem said:

    This is so mean!😡 Don't treat ants like an object!

    August 23, 2019
    Reply
  97. Satans Assistant said:

    2000 young kids: wearing velcro
    2100 young kids: wearing fireants

    August 23, 2019
    Reply
  98. Javier Cruz said:

    The guy looks like an ant and I mean this in the most respectful way lol

    August 23, 2019
    Reply
  99. Redentor ISIS said:

    AntsCanada Enter the conversation 😂😂

    August 24, 2019
    Reply
  100. Aser Rodriguez said:

    Nature

    August 25, 2019
    Reply

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