Just fancy this:
This morning I was eating breakfast in my kitchen, and for a long time as usual, noticed red or black ants crawling over certain areas in the kitchen especially along the white-tiled wall that was just right in front where I was sitting
I then wondered as I always do about tiny creatures, how fast black ants “crawl” since I often notice they actually move quite fast for their small size.
I then decided to conduct a very small and very informal post-breakfast study on their speed similar to a research paper. But here I make it very simple, very informal and friendly to read for non-scientists, and non-researchers
Materials and method:
I marked out exactly 2 meters on the white wall along the path of the black ants, and made 12 measurements on their velocity across these two points.
The ants were then killed by a sweep of the flame from a blow torch lasting less than one second on each point along the line of sweep to minimize contraction of the ants’ size due to crinkling of the ant’s protein molecules when subjected to heat.
The ants’ sizes were then measured under a low power (50 X) microscope fitted with a measuring scale on the eye piece and their natural sizes corrected for magnifications
Here are the results:
Size of kitchen black ants (cm): 3.6, 3.5, 3.0, 3.2, 3.4, 3.6,
3.2, 3.7, 3.1, 3.3, 3.2, 3.4, 3.3, 3.3, 3.5, 3.4
Sampling Technique: Randomized:
1. Sampling size (n): 16
2. Mean size: 3.375 mm (3.375 x 10-3 meter)
3. Sample Standard Deviation: +/- 0.195
4. Time taken to “crawl” 2.0 meters was 10.2 seconds (mean of 12 measurements)
5. Velocity of crawl in a straight line: 19.6 cm per second = 0.7058 km per hour
Results and Discussion:
Olympic 100 Meters Sprint Record:
The current Olympic men’s world record for a 100 meter sprint is 9.58 seconds. This was set by Jamaica's Usain Bolt in 2009. This translates to 37.57 km per hour over a short distance. He was 1.95 m tall compared to the ants which were just 3.375 mm in size.
He was thus 577.77 times larger than the size of the ants
Had the black ants in my kitchen reached the size of Usain Bolt, my ants would have run 407.79 times faster than Usain Bolt. This truly would be far outside this world’s record.
Now let us compare with a latest version of the AirBus jet plane. One of the latest models made by AirBus is the A350-1000. It is 73.88 meters long, or 21,890 times longer than the black ants.
Its new wing design allows it a cruising speed of Mach 0.89 or 1,098.97 kph
If those ants crawling along my kitchen wall were to reach the size of A350-1000, their velocity would be 15,450 kilometers per hour. This is more than 14 times faster than the latest model of this commercial jet plane.
Mr. Atom Ant:
The Earth radius is 6378.1 kilometers. This translates to 40,075 km in circumference (calculated or measured). The velocity of Space Shuttle is 27,870 km/h orbiting the Earth at a minimum height of 304 kilometers above sea level or 6,682 from the center of the Earth. This means its minimum circuit is 41,984 km round above the Earth.
This also means the Space Shuttle will go round the Earth once every 90.38 minutes.
Should my kitchen black ants be now be bloated up to also the same size as an A350-1000 AirBus jet, and then decide to go up into space to the same height as the Space Shuttle, it would be able yo circle the Earth once every 2.717 hours or 163 minutes, making the Space Shuttle 1.8 times faster. Still, that is an awesome speed for Mr. Black Ant
Of course we are fully aware that ants cannot fly like a plane, nor can they hurtle into space and circle the Earth like a space craft. Furthermore, we are only assuming that when the ants were bloated up to the size of a man or to a plane its speed will be magnified proportionally. That may not be true. In all probability their speed may slow down tremendously instead because of an increased mass, let alone we need to consider the aerodynamic shape of the ants as their speed increases, causing a drag, loss of energy and slowing down a body considerably
Of course we are just discussing this under a hypothetical scenario just for academic interest far from being practical. I understand that very well.
Yet we always describe ants as “crawling” on the wall and floor. This very simple and informal study shows they “fly” far faster than a jet plane, not ”crawl”
Do we make sense when describing small creatures? Think this over.
Thank you for reading
- Lim jb