Monday, December 6, 2010

Connecting Godot Machines and Ant Ballets

I'm used to coming across new words, as i have a horrid vocabulary. But when Google's 'define:' function didn't help, I got a bit worried. So I went straight to the source; lead member and founder of the Physical Virus project, Ollie Palmer.

Perhaps you've already recognised, as I nearly did, that 'Godot' originates from the play Waiting for Godot, which portrays the scenario in which two characters wait, in essentially the one place, for a mysterious person named Godot that never arrives. Thus a Godot machine is a mechanical device that keeps a subject of interest in once place at all times. In Ollie's and Physical Virus's case, the subject is an ant.

Physical Virus is a multilayered, multidisciplinary approach to the study of the behaviour of invasive ants. The Godot machine forms the basis of the study of individual ants upon which who’s learning’s will be used to understand how the mechanics at the fine scale propagate and have effects on the larger.

At first sight, such research might seem odd or of little value, but you'd be incredibly wrong. This fact is illustrated nicely in the following documentary film, How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer.

What initially started out as an attempt to understand the crickets ability to chirp in unison with other crickets quickly progressed into a game changer for enhanced understanding of desperate fields such as the internet, medicine, chemistry and social networks including a logical explanation for the social oddity of six degrees of separation. What their research uncovered was a mathematical model that went further than describing the connections between crickets and is today studied in an entirely new field of it's own known as Network Theory.

Physical virus draws similarities to this work in understanding the chemical connections and innate attraction to electrical fields between ants. With understanding of the connectedness of individual ants and the underlying mechanism of that connection, Physical Virus hopes to manipulate their movements and that of an entire colony for the purposes of:

Forming high quality interactive installations, performances and an ant ballet.

Not to be confused with ants in tutus, the Ant Ballet will instead be a performance of the techniques developed through out the projects life and on display for public engagement. Taking place from 2-7 days the ballet aims to be an as near perfect orchestration of an entire network of ants that "perform" to a desired and predicted model.

Physical Virus has high hopes for the potential of their performances, art and research. It is expected that through the various sub projects that advances can be made in communications, architecture/design and controlling invasive species and other invasive systems.

Ant Ballet Concept Graphic #2 | Physical Virus
Ant Ballet Concept Graphic #3 | Physical Virus
So by studying the simple and mistakenly mundane aspects of ants and their colonies we may derive information regarding quite divergent systems.

One such divergent system, for which there is a precedent, is the likeness between ant colonies and Neural Networks. First proposed by Auguste Forel, who is now considered a cofounder of the Neuron Theory based on his understandings of how ant colonies functioned.

So, if you wondering where the next advancements and learnt knowledge of connected systems with regards to medicine, design, and complex systems will be coming from, then look no further than the Physical Virus website and blog. It could just be a game changer.

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