GOSSIPING A(U)NTS!!!

In my last blog I introduced you to biomimetics and bioinspiration world. There is a debate among scientist about whether this field should be called as biomimicry or bioinspiration. When we think about mimicry we give it a negative connotation but in my opinion mimicry is the first step towards learning. When a child learns a new word it simply mimics his/her mother but as the child grows it understands where he can use that word. Similarly nature has so much to offer therefore first step to learn from nature is to be able to mimic its creations. When scientist discovered the mechanism by which a lotus leaf keeps it surface clean and used that mechanism to prepare self-cleaning paints it is biomimicry and when similar mechanism is used to make a spoon to get honey from jar without letting honey to stick to the spoon is bioinspiration.  What do you think fellow bloggers?

Just google biomimetics and you can find several articles on materials based on nature. It is also interesting to read how people discovered all these characteristics which can be used in new materials. Just out of curiosity and keen observation. One thing I have observed that it is not possible for us to carry a microscope with us all the time to appreciate the fine structure of things around us but we can carry our senses with us and look at the things more curiously. Ask questions. Today’s blog is about a common thing all of us might have seen and definitely wondered about in our childhood. Have you ever seen a group of ants on a warm summer day? If you see more carefully each ant stops at other ants and stay with each other as if they are having some kind of conversation. What do they talk? Do they gossip about other ants? Or complain about their mother in laws? Or envy about others home and cars??? Okay I agree now I am being mean…may be they are discussing about the latest football match? May be… 🙂 But seriously what do they talk?

Scientist have found out that ants do communicate with each other. They often give messages to each other about food, danger in the paths and alternate routes to the food. It has been shown that ants use pheromones, a chemical substance to communicate with each other. When an ant follows a path to the food it leaves a trail of pheromones on the path which acts as a guiding source for other ants. If some other ant also wants to follow this path she lays down her own pheromones thus making the trail more prominent towards the food source. But the choice of following a path is totally random and ant specific thus every ant can find an effective route to the food source which in turn helps the group to optimize food search. Scientist are studying the behavior of ants to understand the way insects (ants, bees, beetle etc.) communicate with each other. This field is called as ‘swarm intelligence’. Several research groups are modelling computer algorithm based on the group behavior of these insects. The algorithms can be used to train robots to find optimized solution. Tarasewich and McMullen have given number of possible examples where these algorithms can be implemented such as bus driver scheduling, graph coloring and partitioning, load balancing in telecommunications networks, and routing in packet-switched networks. It is really amazing how these tiny brains can process so much information.

Some food for thought…

I think the key is the simplicity in doing things…Nature has learned this now it’s our turn. Keep it simple stupid!

See you next week.

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