[S]cientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, including Zhongyang Liu and David Hu, were interested in the ways that a mass — or you might say, a mess — of fire ants can act like a fluid or a solid, depending on the situation.
[R]esearchers showed video of the ants pouring out of a funnel, like some thick and wriggling syrup, and also springing back into a rough ball shape after being pressed down.
To flow, they moved around, rearranging themselves in the group, acting like a thick fluid. When the aggregation struggled to keep its shape, the ants clung to each other, acting like an elastic solid.
There is also some very interesting talk about leveraging this research into development of self-assembling robots, bridge construction, and other very practical challenges in the human world.
Via The New York Times for the full story.