The Kid Should See This

Pouring 1200F molten aluminum into an anthill?

To study the architecture of ant colonies and their nests, entomologist and myrmecologist Walter Tschinkel developed a way to “record” their three-dimensional underground chambers: he pours 1200F molten aluminum into the hill and then excavates the hardened cast. The entire process can take around seven hours.

From the tunnel depths, patterns, variations, the “room” arrangements, and more, these resulting casts are full of information about different ant colonies and their behavior:

“You can see that where there’s a lot of traffic near the surface, the shaft is actually a ribbon, a wide tunnel like a superhighway,” he says, gesturing to and describing the incredibly intricate ant architecture. “The more traffic it has, the wider it is.”

And beyond that, the sculptures mix science with art. But, of course, there’s a cost of insect life in this process:

“I don’t do it lightly, actually… The technique has helped prove that colonies can thrive up to 3.6 metres deep and house between 9,000 and 10,000 workers.”

Filling the nest with molten aluminum (or concrete, as shown in this rather stunning video) started an interesting discussion in our house: sacrificing an entire ant colony to learn about it — agree or disagree? And why?

Related reading: Not All the Bugs In Your Home Are Bad.

via jtotheizzoe.

This award-winning video collection is reader-supported. Become a sustaining member to keep TKSST online and free for everyone, including teachers and parents who use it as a resource to spark learning and curiosity for kids.

🌈 Watch these videos next...

Animanimals: Ant

Rion Nakaya

Ants vs Banana, a Temponaut time lapse

Rion Nakaya

The Sticky Feet of Ants & Cockroaches – Cambridge Ideas

Rion Nakaya

The Secret Story of Toys: Action-figure character sculptors

Rion Nakaya

Two professors sculpt each other in less than ten minutes

Rion Nakaya

Dad teaches his daughter how to cast a ring from scrap pewter

Rion Nakaya

Ants: Nature’s Secret Power – Excavating a giant ant hill

Rion Nakaya

Longhorn ‘Crazy Ants’ work erratically/cooperatively to carry loads

Rion Nakaya

Making a kitchen knife from a roll of aluminum foil

Rion Nakaya

Get smart curated videos delivered every week.    
Subscribe