Support Aeon

‘Aeon represents exactly the values that the internet in its purest form is all about. The selfless distribution of wisdom.’

Ben H, UK, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Give now

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Give now

Army ant bridge collapses and recovers

1 minute

How to maintain infrastructure – the stunning collective intelligence of ant engineers

Army ants have tiny brains and are nearly blind, yet they routinely perform extraordinary feats of engineering, building bridges with their bodies to span gaps that they need to cross. In this video from the Swarm Lab of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, recorded in the field in a tropical forest in Panama, researchers pulled apart one of these bridges to study how army ants recover from such a rupture. One conclusion is that, although individual ants are incapable of understanding the movement of their colony as a whole, they have evolved a behavioural code that tells them to stop in their tracks if another ant is walking on top of them, a strategy that allows them to rebuild quickly. There are, however, some more complex army ant-bridge manoeuvres that researchers are still attempting to explain, such as when ants will construct a shortcut bridge rather than taking a longer route. Capturing this phenomenon close-up, this short video observes the surprising capabilities of collective intelligence to solve complex logistical problems.

Video by Helen McCreery, Simon Garnier, Radhika Nagpal, Mike Rubenstein, Melinda Malley, NJIT, Harvard University

Editor: Adam D’Arpino

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter
Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Essay/
Physics
Out of nowhere

Does everything in the world boil down to basic units – or can emergence explain how distinctive new things arise?

Paul Humphreys

Essay/
Cosmology
How cosmic is the cosmos?

Ever since Heisenberg and Tagore, physicists have flirted with Eastern philosophy. Is there anything in the romance?

Zeeya Merali