[ExI] For Spike: Ant slaves' murderous rebellions

spike spike66 at att.net
Fri Apr 3 05:23:14 UTC 2009


> -----Original Message-----
> From: extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org 
> [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Emlyn
> Sent: Thursday, April 02, 2009 9:29 PM
> To: ExI chat list
> Subject: [ExI] For Spike: Ant slaves' murderous rebellions
> http://www.boingboing.net/2009/04/01/ant-slaves-murderous.html
> Ant slaves' murderous rebellions
> Cory Doctorow
> >From last month's journal Evolution, a fascinating tale of slave
> rebellion among ants kidnapped by other ant species and 
> forced to work for the rival colony.
> Emlyn

Emlyn, since I listened to Dawkins reading Darwin about a month ago, I have
returned to an idea I worked on about 10 yrs ago, the creation of a special
microscope for doing ant observations in the wild.  Since I first started
looking at CCD array cameras for astronomy about 20 yrs ago, the field has
enjoyed a dazzling advancement.  Perhaps many of you have seen digital
cameras improve greatly over the past couple decades.  Likewise, advances in
digital CCD arrays have enabled the amateur astronomer to view the heavens
in the comfort and warmth of her own home in front of her computer.

Here's the idea: create a microscope that will allow me to observe ants
under about a 20x magnification with a field of view of perhaps two cm
diameter.  That part is easy and even commercially available, but what I
really want to do is try to fix up some image recognition software so that
the computer could count the number and speed of ants passing in each
direction.  I also want to see if I could observe that phenom that Darwin
mentions in chapter 7 of OoS, that of ants masturbating aphids to get their
nectar.  Well, loosely speaking.

Recall last spring I was doing some experiments with goo rings, trying to
determine if ants cut off from the ground were falling out of the trees or
intentionally leaping.  That series of experiments turned out to be
inconclusive, as my mate kept interfering by taking away my bridge over the
goo every time I went on a business trip.  Shamelessly unrepentant is she
with whom I celebrated our 25th anniversary last week.  I intend to try
again in a few weeks when ant season starts up again, and this time I hope
to keep my good wife's grubby paws off of my ant experiments.

I have another series of experiments I want to do with double straws.  The
ants are cut off from the ground with a goo ring around the trunk.  They are
then presented with two soda straws, side by side, leading from the fence to
the tree.  The outside of the straws are gooed so the ants must go inside
the straws.  The soda straws are too small for two ants to pass each other
inside.  So now they can't do much aphid masturbation unless they figure out
how to make one straw the in door and the other the out door.  If they are
smart enough to figure out a short one-way split, then I will have a bunch
of new experiments, but actually I doubt they will figure it out.  I have
seen ant trails hundreds of times, yea thousands, but I don't recall ever
seeing the southbound ants split from the northbounders.  I have seen ant
trails split and rejoin, but all the sub-branches contain both directioners.

Anyone seen southbounders split from northbounders?


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list