Ants human traffic

Ant’s route and the human traffic system

Finding the shortest route is a nature’s selection. Even by Fermat’s principle, light follows a rectilinear path so as to cover the minimum distance in the entire journey. Ants are no different than this. In an ant colony, a single ant randomly roams about and finds a food destination. While returning it lays a pheromone trail in its path. The other ants from the colony could approach the food source via any path but the reinforcement of the pheromone path appears to be more appealing. Gradually, with time, the ant family chooses a path which is the shortest from the nest to the food source.

Ants human traffic
Shortest path find by an ant colony | Johann Dréo (Wikimedia)

In the ant family, the strength of pheromones lying along the path determines the pattern for the shortest route. If two ants make two different paths and more ants are to follow those paths, then naturally the shortest path will have more frequency of ants. If each ant leaves behind a trail of pheromone, then the shortest path will have a stronger sense of pheromone – and thus emerges the natural shortest path.

In human traffic system often the lack of information of traffic increases the load of problems. If the initial group of drivers on road could convey the message of a traffic coming up ahead, then the following drivers could easily en route themselves differently. The concept is generally implemented in traffic monitoring apps. The app monitors the speed of users on a particular road and conveys information regarding the possible slowdown.

Source: Alexander John et. al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 108001 (2009)

Rakesh Moulick, Ph.D., is presently working as an Assistant Professor at Lovely Professional University, Punjab, India. Dr. Moulick is a theoretical plasma physicist. His research interest lies in the study of Plasma sheath, Particle in cell techniques, Fluid dynamics, molecular dynamics etc. Apart from having a dignified research honor, he takes a keen interest in popularizing science and lures as a good science communicator.