June 2014



Thwaites Glacier Melting glaciers: A new study by researchers at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, finds a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea. Read more ....

Squid Symbiosis: The small but charismatic Hawaiian bobtail squid is known for its predator-fooling light organ. To survive, the nocturnal cephalopod depends on a symbiotic association with a luminescent bacterium that gives it the ability to mimic moonlight on the surface of the ocean and, in the fashion of a Klingon cloaking device, deceive barracuda and other fish that would happily make a meal of the small creature. Read more ....

Coral reef Protective corals: Coral reefs are widely regarded as one of the most beautiful, diverse and delicate ecosystems on the planet. A new study by an international team of scientists reveals that reefs also play the tough guy role in protecting hundreds of millions of people from rising sea levels and damaging wave action. Read more .....

Sea anemone Oceanic life: A deep-water creature once thought to be one of the world's largest sea anemones, with tentacles reaching more than 6.5 feet long, actually belongs to a new order of animals. Read more ....

Batteries Harnessing waste heat: Vast amounts of excess heat are generated by industrial processes and by electric power plants; researchers around the world have spent decades seeking ways to harness some of this wasted energy. Most such efforts have focused on thermoelectric devices, solid-state materials that can produce electricity from a temperature gradient, but the efficiency of such devices is limited by the availability of materials. Read more ....

Aircraft Brain-controlled flight: Pilots of the future could be able to control their aircraft by merely thinking commands. Scientists of the Technische Universitat Munchen and the TU Berlin claim to have demonstrated the feasibility of flying via brain control - with astonishing accuracy. Read more ....




How ants optimize food search

Ants are capable of complex problem-solving strategies that could be widely applied as optimization techniques. An individual ant searching for food walks in random ways, biologists found. Yet the collective foraging behaviour of ants goes well beyond that, as a mathematical study reveals: The animal movements at a certain point change from chaos to order. This happens in a surprisingly efficient self-organized way. Understanding the ants could help analyze similar phenomena -- for instance how humans roam in the internet.

"Ants have a nest so they need something like a strategy to bring home the food they find," says lead-author Lixiang Li who is affiliated both to the Information Security Center, State Key Laboratory of Networking and Switching Technology, at the Beijing University of Posts and Communications, and to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "We argue that this is a factor, largely underestimated so far, that actually determines their behavior."

Leaving a trail of scent

The Chinese-German research team basically put almost everything that is known about the foraging of ants into equations and algorithms and fed this into their computers. They assume that there are three stages of the complex feed-search movements of an ant colony: Initially, scout ants indeed circle around in a seemingly chaotic way. When exhausted, they go back to the nest to eat and rest. However, when one of them finds some food in the vicinity of the colony, it takes a tiny piece of it to the nest, leaving a trail of a scent-emanating substance called pheromones.

Other ants will follow that trail to find the food and bring some of it home. Their orchestration is still weak because there is so little pheromone on the trail. Due to their large number, the ants go lots of different ways to the food source and back to the nest, leaving again trails of scent. This eventually leads to an optimization of the path: Since pheromones are evaporative, the scent is the stronger the shorter the trail is -- so more ants follow the shortest trail, again leaving scent marks. This generates a self-reinforcing effect of efficiency -- the ants waste a lot less time and energy than they would in continued chaotic foraging.

Importantly, the researchers found that the experience of individual ants contributes to their foraging success -- something also neglected in previous research. Older ants have a better knowledge of the nests surroundings. The foraging of younger ants is a learning process rather than an effective contribution to scout food, according to the study.

A highly efficient complex network

"While the single ant is certainly not smart, the collective acts in a way that I'm tempted to call intelligent," says co-author Jurgen Kurths who leads PIK's research domain Transdisciplinary Concepts and Methods. "The principle of self-organisation is known from for instance fish swarms, but it is the homing which makes the ants so interesting." While the study of foraging behavior of ants is certainly of practical ecological importance, the study's authors are mainly interested in understanding the fundamental patterns of nonlinear phenomena. "The ants collectively form a highly efficient complex network," Kurths explains. "And this is something we find in many natural and social systems."

So the mathematical model developed in studying the ants is applicable not only to very different kinds of animals which share just the feature that they have a home to return to, such as Albatrosses. It also provides a new perspective on behavioral patterns of humans in areas as diverse as the evolution of web services and smart transportation systems.

(Source: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research news release)



Some useful links for
your career:


  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website are for informational purposes only. Although due care is taken, the correctness and accuracy cannot be guaranteed. The science and medical research articles are for informational purposes only, aimed at kindling an interest in science. They are not intended to provide any kind of advice.