Watching a post blow up

Here’s to meta-blogging!

An interesting thing happened last week…a video came out on the website Digg (link to video), showing what happens when you pour molten aluminum into an ant hole.  The video has no explanation or context, so people took to the web, looking for answers.

This is what it looks like when one of my posts blows up.

This is what it looks like when one of my posts blows up.

And they found this post, which I wrote a couple of years ago, about some of the work I did with Walter Tschinkel at FSU.  We were studying the architecture of ant mounds.  I realize that most blogs have had a much greater number of hits, but 493 visits (and 398 visitors) in a single day was a record for me.  You can see how that drowns out everything around it!

Ant nest architecture blowing away the competition easily

Ant nest architecture blowing away the competition easily

It’s funny, I never thought the post was particularly notable, but it has always been my most popular post, visit wise (more than 4 times as many visits as the next most popular post), but interestingly enough, it only ever received 7 likes from wordpress folk.  But, given that it has been so popular, maybe you’ll go check it out?




5 thoughts on “Watching a post blow up

  1. If you go to the video maker’s website, there’s a link to his Facebook page. He’s been receiving a lot of criticism regarding the ethical aspects of pouring molten metal into living ant colonies, invasive or not. Not really sure how I feel about it; they are beautiful, no doubt, and there is a scientific value to the ones that you did. But it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. Any thoughts on this?

    • That’s a great question, and one I have thought about many times myself. As with many scientific projects, the study of the architecture of the mounds does require a sacrifice. Walter Tschinkel mainly studies the fire ants, which are a dangerous invasive species that has the potential to compete with native species and damage ecosystems. Not only that, but they are not threatened…you could kill endless numbers of them and yet they would still remain.

      Beyond the research aspect, it is more difficult to argue that the ants should be sacrificed for beauty. But consider other forms of art that require the death of plants and animals. How can you measure the value of one life versus another?

      I guess my main point is that it is not clear how this action differs from other actions that require a sacrifice, but we do have the potential to learn something valuable from it, as opposed to mindless killing where life is simply wasted (e.g. when ant mounds are sprayed with insecticides).

  2. Molten aluminium down an ant-hole? Very expensive. Boiling water usually does the trick. [My stats spike massively when I post about active hurricanes. I hadn’t thought about trying intimate body parts, but now someone has mentioned it…] RH

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