Sunday, July 13, 2008

Learn something new today

Mr W is wary of bugs. Well, he's afraid of bees in particular, but interested in other types of arthropods. There are a couple of ant nests at the dog park we take Sally to, and we usually spend some time on our haunches, watching the ants and talking about how it is that they can lift things that are so big, where they might be going, how much it would hurt if you got a finger pinched by those mandibles, etc.

I have recently been turned on to TED, which is a collection of videos on a variety of topics, and if you have any extra time, check it out, I don't think you'll be disappointed. I have an interest (not quite sure what to do with it yet, but something will happen with it, I'm sure) in the communication of scientific information to non-scientific people. That's not supposed to sound disingenuous; I hope that by spending time with Mr W looking at ant colonies, he'll choose not to kick them as he goes by (which he did do, once) and instead gain some kind of appreciation for them.

If you follow this link, it's a 20 minute talk on ants by a researcher in SE Arizona, who studies what she calls "task allocation" in harvester ants.

Some fun facts:
A queen can live for 15-20 years.
All ants are colony dwellers
There is no central control - yet the ants work cooperatively
The four tasks in a colony (besides those of the queen) are: foraging, patrolling, maintenance and garbage detail
While ants have eyes, smell is the most important sense
Ants can switch tasks, based on the pattern of antennal contact in other ants they encounter

I still am having trouble figuring out how to embed video, but I'll work on it.

I like the tie-ins of her work to decision making in other areas.

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Hi, sorry to make the humans do an extra step.