Wait, so fire ants can be considered a liquid in certain occasions?

Physics is one of the subjects I wish I’d taken in school but didn’t. I’m not sure how the American school system works but in the UK, we get two years of general science at high school and we then choose which of the sciences to “specialize” in for a further 2-4 years. If you’re super awesome, you’re allowed to pick all three: chemistry, biology and physics. I could have done this, but I chose to only take chemistry and biology. I received good marks, but to this day, I regret not having taken physics as well because it seems like all the coolest science stories I find are coming from physics areas.

For example, when I clicked on the video created by the New York Times demonstrating how fire ants can behave as either a solid or a liquid given the right environment , I assumed it was biology based. How wrong I was! It turns out that pushing fire ants through a funnel causes them to act as a liquid, but balling them up and pushing down on them causes them to spring back into place, like a mattress or a really beautiful sandwich. I don’t know what this means for future research into malleable and self-mending materials, but watching the video (below) made me regret not studying physics again.

Published on December 30, 2013 at 6:11 pm
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