Ants are cool with weightlessness

Jonathan Webb, for BBC News:

Researchers want to learn from the ants’ cooperative methods and develop search algorithms for groups of robots.

The ants were sent aloft in a supply rocket in January 2014, and results from the experiments are published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

The team is now beginning a citizen science project where schoolchildren can help collect data from other ant species – in their classrooms, rather than up in space.

Speaking to the BBC’s Science in Action, senior author Deborah Gordon said that ants have demonstrated their remarkable collective abilities in myriad environments on Earth, but the results from the microgravity conditions of the ISS were something new.

Why am I not surprised to learn that ants, with their sturdy, robot-like bodies, and cloud-like swarm intelligence, might be better suited to zero-g environments than squishy humans?