As the classic public service announcement goes, “If you see something, say something.” But adherence to this precept clearly generates a problem: if you don’t see something, you won’t say something! It is perhaps because of this mental framework that subterranean ants have received such little work in the scientific literature, compared to their aboveground sisters. Either that, or studying subterranean ants is really hard. Whatever the reason for this historical lack of premier underground ant content, a recent manuscript by Mark Wong and Benoit Guénard in Myrmecological News is exciting indeed.
The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the twenty-second contribution in the series, submitted by Chris Blake-Turner.
Let me start by making sure I say at least one true thing in this post: ants and humans are very different. I’m going to use this platitude to explore a problem that arises when we try to make some of the most important decisions in our lives. In particular, it seems that we can’t rationally decide: to have children; to change careers; to go to college.
Consider the following two scenarios.
The Daily Ant hosts an intermittent ant film series, Theatre Thursdays. This is the second installment, by our Film Correspondant Derek Langston. Enjoy!
Six-legged Celluloid Presents…
A review of Ants on a Plane: “I’m tired of these mother formic ants on this mother formic plane!”
When I decided to watch and review this film, I chose the rental option on Amazon. I was immediately greeted by a message along the lines of “Ordered by mistake? Click here to cancel order”, and I thought to myself, “This must be a warning from the gods of cinema”. Well boy were they right to warn me! What was to follow was an hour and a half of my life I will never get back. But fear not – my job is to weed out the crap from the quality when it comes to formicly-centered films so you, our faithful readers, don’t have to!
Avid readers will remember our article “Feeling Blue? So is This Ant“, in which we featured a beautiful blue ant. Today, we add another ant to our color wheel:
This queen is not green with envy, but green with being Oecophylla smaragdina, a widespread species of weaver ant. Why is it green? Who knows!
We all know how ants forage for food. A bunch of workers are sent out randomly, then, upon finding some delicious munchie, each worker lays a chemical trail back to her nest in the hopes that other workers will follow suit. Whether or not nest mates do in fact reinforce a given trail is dictated largely by an emergent, semi-random selection process involving factors like the evaporation rate of trail pheromones, distance of a food source from the nest, and the size of the food source. So, that’s how all ants forage for food. Except it’s NOT!
The Daily Ant hosts a weekly series, Philosophy Phridays, in which real philosophers share their thoughts at the intersection of ants and philosophy. This is the twenty-first contribution in the series, submitted by Dr. Lauren Ashwell.
Dispositions and Ant-idotes
Dispositions have seemed to some philosophers to be too spooky and other-worldly to be properties in their own right. Instead, these philosophers have tried to analyze dispositions away in terms they found more ontologically palatable. Dispositional ascriptions, it was once thought, are really just assertions of counterfactuals connecting stimulus conditions to manifestation conditions: to say that something is soluble in water is just to say that it would dissolve if it were placed in water, to say that something is flammable is just to say that it would burn if an ignition source were applied, and to say that something is poisonous is just to say that it would harm you if you were exposed to it [i].
Liu Xiaobo once wrote that “life is priceless, even to an ant.” We are thus very sad to learn that the life of Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who was imprisoned in China up until his medical release a few weeks ago, came to an end on Thursday, July 13th, at the age of 61. For a spirited obituary by The New York Times editorial board, see here.
Sometimes, The New York Times is depressingly anti-ant. Other times, it produces excellent ant-friendly content such as this video recently sent to The Daily Ant by Comic Correspondant Matthew Hernandez and Field Correspondant Ana Rita:
Ants are all kinds of smelly, and a recent study in PNAS advances our understanding of the molecular and genetic bases of these smells. See here for Vanderbilt University’s coverage of the study, and enjoy the below video produced in concert with the study’s publication. Thanks to Coffee Correspondant Ciara Reyes for bringing our attention to this study!
Some time ago, Tube Correspondant Katerina Theodossiou let us know about a remarkable scene from Jane the Virgin, a show that Rotten Tomatoes justifiably rates as 100% fresh:
The inclusion of ants in the third season (and this is not the only occurrence!) virtually guarantees that this season, like the first two, will receive perfect marks from any rating site worth its salt.
Remember, dear readers, to stay vigilant against mainstream vertebrate bias, which takes many forms (really!). Pedagogical Correspondant Anna Cox shared with us yet another example of sneaky anti-ant writing featured in a practice test, in the form of the New York Times highlighting an invasive ant species in 2013. Invasive ants give the rest of the 10,000’s of species of ants a bad name – never judge the many based on the few!
Comic Correspondant Matthew Hernandez recently brought to our attention an interesting investigation of ant strength by Poorly Drawn Lines. Take a look:
This is not the first time that Poorly Drawn Lines has incorporated ants into their excellent work, and in fact they have a couple other pieces using ants that we have yet to feature here. Correspondant Hernandez reached out to PDL to request the incorporation of The Daily Ant into a new comic, but we have not yet heard back. Stay tuned!