Optimized by Evolution, Ants Don't Have Traffic Jams

Mar 30, 2009 By Lisa Zyga feature
While observing ants traveling on a trail, scientists observed that, unlike in vehicular traffic, the average velocity of ant traffic remains the same in spite of increasing density. Image credit: Alexander John, et al.

(PhysOrg.com) -- As highway traffic increases, you'd probably expect a traffic jam, where vehicles slow down due to the high density. While traffic jams are a common occurrence on our highways, high density traffic has completely different effects for ants traveling on trails. As a new study has found, ants don't have traffic jams. Rather, as ant traffic density increases, the traffic maintains the same average velocity as at low densities.

A team of researchers from institutions in Germany, India, and Japan discovered this surprising result while observing the ant species Leptogenys processionalis travel down linear trails. Like many other ant species, these form trails with their pheromones that remain stable for hours or even days, making the trails analogous to vehicular highways.

“Our study clearly demonstrates that ant is very different from vehicular traffic, in spite of superficial similarities,” Andreas Schadschneider, of the University of Köln and the University of Bonn in Germany, told PhysOrg.com. “It also raises a fundamental question: how do the ants achieve practically ‘free-flow’ up to such high densities; our experiment demonstrates what happens and we also make a theoretical model of what might be responsible for this behavior.”

To observe the ants in their natural setting, the researchers set up video cameras at sections of 10 different one-way trails that had no intersections or routes that branched off. Surprisingly, the scientists never observed individual ants speeding up to overtake another ant in front; the ants followed each other in single file. This behavior, of course, contrasts with vehicular highway traffic, as well as most other known traffic forms.

Most significantly, the scientists found that, unlike vehicular traffic, the average velocity of ant traffic remains the same in spite of increasing density. Consequently, the greater the density, the greater the flux, so that more ants travel down the trail segment in a given amount of time. In contrast, vehicles on a highway tend to slow down when the traffic density increases, eventually resulting in a traffic jam. Along the same lines, the researchers noted that most types of high-density traffic exhibit mutual blocking, in which a vehicle is prevented from moving by neighboring vehicles and also contributes to the blocking of those vehicles. However, the researchers did not observe mutual blocking in the ant trails.

As the researchers suggested, perhaps evolution has optimized ant traffic flow, since ants are known to have highly developed social behaviors. In their study, the scientists observed that ants tend to form platoons in which they move at almost identical velocities, allowing them to travel “bumper-to-bumper” while maintaining their velocity. At higher densities, platoons merge to form longer platoons. But because their head-distance remains the same, traffic still maintains its same velocity even as density increases. This behavior is very different from highway traffic, in which vehicles close together tend to slow down.

“For the ants, an efficient transport system is essential for the survival of a colony,” Schadschneider said. “Food sources are usually not in the immediate neighborhood of the nest and so the transport has to be well organized. Therefore it is not surprising that evolution has optimized the behavior of the ants (or all social insects). On the other hand, human transportation systems still reflect a certain desire for freedom and individuality. In contrast to ant traffic, what dominates in human traffic are two things: selfish (non-cooperative) behavior, and large body weight of vehicles where any contact between the vehicles would be costly (for the cars as well as for the riders' lives). Ants, on the other hand, do not mind body contacts which become unavoidable at high densities.”

As he explained, understanding ant behavior will require further study: “Now entomologists have to connect this behavior of ants to their ‘thinking and sensing’ process. Our work opens up the possibility of collaborations between entomologists, physicists, mathematical modelers and traffic scientists.”

While this study shows that the collective marching of ant traffic seems to be very different from vehicular traffic, the scientists suggest that ant traffic might be more analogous to human pedestrian traffic. They plan to explore this analogy in the future, and they predict that their results could have applications in swarm intelligence, ant-based computer algorithms, and traffic engineering.

“To our knowledge, so far applications in swarm intelligence mainly draw from the analogy with the formation of ant trail networks,” Schadschneider said. “Our study was focused on a different aspect, namely the usage of an already existing trail. Combining both approaches could open promising perspectives for future applications, e.g. in optimization problems.

“From a traffic engineering point of view, the results give some indication on how to improve the situation on our highways,” he added. “As the example of the ant trail shows, non-egoistic behavior could improve the situation for almost everybody. However, this will be difficult to achieve since, very much in contrast to the ants, drivers and their cars are very different. Another interesting point is the relevance of communication between the vehicles. On ant trails this is achieved mostly on a chemical basis. In the future, our cars might be connected electronically and transmit e.g. information about velocity changes immediately. This would allow the driver to react much quicker to a new situation.”

More information: John, Alexander; Schadschneider, Andreas; Chowdhury, Debashish; and Nishinari, Katsuhiro. “Trafficlike collective movement of ants on trails: absence of jammed phase.” Physical Review Letters, 102, 108001 (2009).


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Mayday
4.1 / 5 (16) Mar 30, 2009
In a parrellel study they gave the ants tiny cell phones and got significantly different results.
theophys
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2009
Maybe human traffic jams would disapeer if everyone on the road could lift fifty times their own weight.
Or maybe if staying on the road too long risked being devoured by a multitude of giant predators.
moj85
4.1 / 5 (9) Mar 30, 2009
Or maybe this is an obvious answer to why we have traffic: if we bump into the person in front of us, we're traveling at 60 miles per hour, and likely could kill us and other people. When an ant bumps into its buddy up ahead, it just gets a facefull of ass pheromones.

The risk to traveling without slowing down is insanely high compared to WALKING.
DozerIAm
3.6 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2009
the study seems... well, silly. Its not an equal comparison. Lets compare himan walking traffic with ant walking traffic, I bet then the patterns would be similar. It is in the ants best interest to not waste energy running unless its for a survival situation. This is similar to adult human populations, say of people going from the subway/parking lot to their place of work.
Mayday
4.6 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2009
Interesting how driving seems to be one of the few acquired skills that most people do not get better at with practice. If I played guitar an hour or two a day for twenty-plus years, I'd be pretty darn good at it. Not so with most people and driving.

As for the ants, just add personal risk to the equation and it sort of becomes obvious, doesn't it? You see it play out in comparison to humans walking -- lower risk = higher speed/density.

As for cars, the trick is local density. Keep each vehicle farther apart and traffic can maintain much smoother and much higher speeds. The next best option is variable speed limits to reduce local bunching and to break up the reverse-flowing density waves.
winthrom
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2009
Ants follow a pheromone trail, so they do not deviate from their path. People follow the path that they wnat: Fastest, safest, etc. The motives are different, so the results are different.
latersville
1 / 5 (2) Mar 30, 2009
"In a parrellel study they gave the ants tiny cell phones and got significantly different results."

ROFLMFAO!
GFreemanPHD
4.6 / 5 (5) Mar 31, 2009
Ant traffic behavior is more like trains than autos. The ants do not pass each other and travel in groups. Just like trains, when groups meet they link up. GM in the 1950s were working on cars that drove themselves in packs on guided highways. When I saw a movie of this I immediately realized that this system would never compete with real trains. Maybe in the future when we have driverless cars we might have fewer traffic jams.
O2L
1 / 5 (2) Mar 31, 2009
suddenly all the results were pointless when a land rover drove over the colonoy of the ants they were studying
tFW
3.2 / 5 (5) Mar 31, 2009
The difference here, between ants and humans, is that every ant knows and accepts it's part in the machine. Humans are too self-important by nature. Even if 99% go with the flow and do their part, there will always be that 1% that need to be ahead, have more, win, etc..
Now if only it was only as low as 1%..
DonR
1 / 5 (1) Mar 31, 2009
Put the ants in cars, then I'll take heed of the results. :)
Austriak
1 / 5 (2) Apr 01, 2009
The Physics and Thermodynamics Source of Ants Traffic Behavior

Everybody can understand this ants behavior seeing the anatomy of LUCA %u2013 The Last Universal Common Ancestral, because it is a genetic and inherited behavior from that ancestral. This behavior came from the so called inanimate Physics, the same that does not allow electrons changing speed in trail inside wires, which should provoke a short circuit. Ants have no brains for traffic engineering, what is working here are the laws of atoms constituting the bodies of ants. The poster below called tFW is right saying that, The difference here, between ants and humans, is that every ant knows and accepts it's part in the machine. Ants are like machines because LUCA was a system machine-like (a Newtonian biological machine) and LUCA is encrypted inside the genetic code of every living being. When looking to the anatomy of LUCA, you can see the origins of this transport behavior in the channels of communication among the seven parts or systemic functions. It is traffic obeying a clockwise rhythm. If the traffic increases velocity or slow down, all bits walking inside those channels performs the same speed.
Let%u2019s see what LUCA says about the article


1 ARTICLE On the other hand, human transportation systems still reflect a certain desire for freedom and individuality.

LUCA Ants, as primitive specie has strong genetic behavior mimicking the last ancestral. The last ancestor has a body like a machine, it is a perfect closed system. So, ants are like parts of a machine, they works as machine. Human beings, since that is a specie very distant from the ancestral, and have the spectacular mutation developing counsciousness, keeps iself as opened system. At any opened system, the parts can acts autonomous and individually. Ants can not.


2 ARTICLE As the researchers suggested, perhaps evolution has optimized ant traffic flow, since ants are known to have highly developed social behaviors.

LUCA It is not about optimization by evolution, but, it is about progress in a process of reproduction. Every element in biosphere, included ants, is a step in the ptocess of terrestrial reproduction of LUCA. Ants does not have highly developed social behaviors, but is a kind of biological system that the best has made in mimicking the social system of the ancestral. Every detail in the ants society you can see in the anatomy of LUCA billions years before life origins at Earth.


3 ARTICLE In their study, the scientists observed that ants tend to form platoons in which they move at almost identical velocities, allowing them to travel %u201Cbumper-to-bumper%u201D while maintaining their velocity. At higher densities, platoons merge to form longer platoons.

LUCA The platoons are ants way of mimicking the waves of time that advances inside the systemic circuit of LUCA. You can have a better vision of those waves with an analogy of a stone thrown in the water of a lake. Each layer of the last wave contains quantities of bits and no platoon changes velocity because the waves does not also. When all later bits arrives to the last wave, a new and larger wave is formed, always longer than the last one.


4 ARTICLE For the ants, an efficient transport system is essential for the survival of a colony

LUCA Yes, they are being driven by the ability of the atoms of their bodies. In the body of LUCA, these atoms are driven in a perfect and efficient transport system, if not, the whole system self-destroy and LUCA dies.


5 ARTICLE As he explained, understanding ant behavior will require further study: %u201CNow entomologists have to connect this behavior of ants to their %u2018thinking and sensing%u2019 process. Our work opens up the possibility of collaborations between entomologists, physicists, mathematical modelers and traffic scientists.

LUCA The best contributor to understand ant behavior and everything else in biosphere is the knowledge of the LUCA anatomy. See below how the models of LUCA already had suggest to me looking for quorum sensing when I was inquiring about the ant transport behavior.


6 ARTICLE the scientists suggest that ant traffic might be more analogous to human pedestrian traffic.

LUCA Sorry, it is not. Human pedestrian traffic is about opened system, and ants walking in trail are about the genetic inheritance from a closed system.


7 ARTICLE They plan to explore this analogy in the future, and they predict that their results could have applications in swarm intelligence, ant-based computer algorithms, and traffic engineering.

LUCA Sorry, the study about ants traffic behavior can not be useful for human traffic engineering. Humans are not robots. Ok, we can use it for planning driverless vehicles. Because the closed social system, the ants social system is decentralized, without the direction of a controller. Indeed there is a supreme controller, but he does not belongs to the system, he is invisible to the parts. The controller is the result of the sum of informations of all parts plus the information that emerges from the fuzzy logic inside the system. In other words, the controller is the system itself. The set of parts build the system-controller, like the human brain build the mind. But the mind is the controller invisible to the parts and the mind, through central nervous system, is behind the quorum sensing inside the human body. The most viable application in technology, I think, is in robotics, in self organizing networks such as the SECOAS, Self-Organizing Collegiate Sensor, environmental monitoring system.


8 ARTICLE As the example of the ant trail shows, non-egoistic behavior could improve the situation for almost everybody. However, this will be difficult to achieve since, very much in contrast to the ants, drivers and their cars are very different

LUCA The genetic inheritance of ants, from an ancestral machine like, makes that every ant be altruist. Because they are merely organs of a system, the system is a closed one and closed system is the extreme selfishness possible in this world. We humans inherited the selfish gene from LUCA, because LUCA choose to be a closed system, cutting relations with everything else in the Universe. But, the selfishness of the system is based over the altruism of its parts, which makes everything for the well being of the system. Since the parts are nurtured and accommodated and protected by the selfish system, it means that in fact the altruism of its parts is selfishness also. In another words, the selfish system is result of the sum of the altruism in its direction from every part. And human beings society is opened systems%u2026 yet.


9 ARTICLE Another interesting point is the relevance of communication between the vehicles. On ant trails this is achieved mostly on a chemical basis.

LUCA That is it! It is in chemistry, thermodynamics, Physics, that this interesting study must go now. We will learn a lot, with the help of ants transport behavior.

I can not do this job but, a quickly looking to the Matrix models of LUCA, at http://theuniversalmatrix.com . suggest to me how could be a method for studying it:
The ants transport behavior is based in the hormone called pheromone. It seems that specifically it is about the pheromone releaser, or signal pheromone. These pheromones are based on hydrocarbons. The majority of hydrocarbons found naturally occur in crude oil, where decomposed organic matter provides an abundance of carbon and hydrogen which, when bonded, can catenate to form seemingly limitless chains. Carbon is the atom choose for to constitutes the organic matter because it is the atom that mimics a system like LUCA: the number of protons, six, performs the six systemic functions like LUCA. This inherent ability of hydrocarbons to bond to themselves is referred to as catenation, the physic-chemical scenario behind this transport behavior. Social ants system, like the body of LUCA is a closed system where there is decentralized system, because no individual is in charge of directing or making decisions for the colony. The general commander is invisible; it is outside of the physical anatomy, because he is the proper system, the sum of informations from every part plus the informations acquired by internal fuzzy logic due the miscegenation of functions. Then the command seems to be quorum sensing. The transport in the trail is a kind of catenation, the ability of a chemical element to form a long chain-like structure via a series of covalent bonds. The covalence is performed by a bi-polar link: when walking, the ants are in a chain where the back, polar a, of an ant is followed by the head, polar b, of the next ant. Quorum sensing can also be used to coordinate the behavior of autonomous robot swarms. Using a process similar to that used by Temnothorax ants, robots can make rapid group decisions without the direction of a controller [Quorum sensing can be a useful tool for improving the function of self-organizing networks. Finally, Some hydrocarbons also are abundant in the solar system. Lakes of liquid methane and ethane have been found on Titan, Saturn's largest moon, confirmed by the Cassini-Huygens Mission. Which drives our attention to our astronomic ancestral, Mr. LUCA.
denijane
not rated yet Apr 01, 2009
Ants have much to teach us. If only we would learn...
Austriak
3 / 5 (3) Apr 01, 2009
%u2022 UFFS: "A team of researchers from institutions in Germany, India, and Japan discovered this surprising result while observing the ant species Leptogenys processionalis travel down linear trails. It took a team of researchers from 3 different countries to figure this out?? I think I "discovered" this when I was 4 playing in the yard..

But, it is necessary doing it, Uffs. We humans have not see the natural phenomenon under our noses yet. We need to look everything again, but as really interested students and see it with the eyes of our recently newborn consciousness. Our ancestral, the animals, did not saw the phenomena that were not related to food or predators. Our past human ancestral have not saw the phenomena with intelligence because it needs asking Why? How? Which if? And these questions were misleaded by religious mythology, fantasies, like any newborn child. But, every little natural phenomenon has a universal history in whole time and space. There are no new phenomena here created from nowhere. For instance we see reptiles putting eggs outside and mammals keeping eggs inside. A real and conscious human being should ask: how and why the last reptiles made the decision or had the wish to keep the eggs inside, for to being transformed into mammals?! We need looking for explanations and we will discover that billions years ago, before the origins of reptiles and mammals, in the sky, natural proto systems was already putting eggs outside and keeping eggs inside, at the same time! So, we learned that the transformation from reptiles to mammals was deterministic. We see a chicken with her offspring under her wings. We should asking: why the stupid brain of a chicken already has maternal tendency?! Now we can see that stars in the sky already keeps its offsprings, the planets, under their gravitational wings, hot and accommodated and protected, and we will going to understand the existence of our world and the existence of ourselves in this world. It is new times plenty of novelty, you have no excuses for getting bored in this wonderful Universe. The scientists is doing the job that we need do.

And DENIJANE is right: because ants is more next to the origins of life and of our ancestral inanimate world than we are, and because ants and honeybee are the best offspring of LUCA, we will learn about our past and the roots of our existence thought out studies like this about ants.
TheEyeofTheBeholder
1 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2009
This study shows that a computer controlled cars in traffic will be more efficient (time and energy usage) then our now individual minded overly gas consuming cars. And there will be no need to go over speed limit to get where we need to go, on time, and by going one constant velocity, that only a computer can do. We will all get there 'at the same time'. I would gladly give the computer the control to transport me.

Also one lane is better the three lanes. Or at least in the near future when we have computer controlled cars, one lane is all we need versus the ten lane highways we have now. It will save precious land for other uses, more green spaced perhaps.
Disrupted
not rated yet Apr 03, 2009
If I played guitar an hour or two a day for twenty-plus years, I'd be pretty darn good at it. Not so with most people and driving.


I understand the point of your post as a whole.. I just had to say this, lol.

I'm a guitar player and have seen some guitar players never get better and only play the same blues riffs for 20 years. lol. :)
Alizee
Apr 05, 2009
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