Yesterday, I was sitting at our outside picnic table reading a book. It was a fairly hot day, but it was cool enough under the shade of a canopy. As always, when I read it takes me a long time to get through a page because my mind tends to wander to all kinds of different places, times, and things. The following story will leave you wondering if it is ever possible for me to get through an entire book.
Looking for any excuse to get off track, I allowed my gaze to wander to the cement pad beneath my feet. Nothing outstanding there—just the grey aggregate that makes up anything made from poured concrete.But on that plain of rock, I saw a single ant making its way around my feet. As he came out from beneath the sole of my sandal, I gave him 100% of my attention.
He (or I guess it could have been a her) didn’t seem to have a particular place he was going because he would often zigzag a little to the left and then a little to the right. Whatever his goal was, he had a long way to go on his planet that was also my patio.
I watched him move at what seemed like a pretty fast pace—at least for an ant. That got me to thinking, “How fast is he going?”
The ant was tiny—no more than 1/4 inch in length. I watched him move about three feet in approximately one minute. And when you add in his wandering from a straight path, you would have to double that distance to at least six feet.
I decided to calculate on how fast and far a man could move in the same time. To do this, I compared the miniscule ant to a 6-foot tall person.
–In one minute, the ant moved six feet.
— If the ant is ¼ inches in length and the man is 6-foot tall, then for every foot a man walks an ant would have cover (comparatively) 288 feet. (There are 4 ants of ¼” in length for every inch and a 6 foot tall man is 72 inches tall, so 4X12X72=288)
–A man can run a mile in 4 minutes
–That would mean my ant could run a mile (equivalent—18 inches) in 3 minutes (18X288=5,182 feet = 1 mile).
This means that in a mile race with the best human track runners in the world going all out, my ant would be able to complete the race and sit in the shade for nearly a minute before the next racer crossed the finish line. And thing is, (as I said) when I timed my ant he was really just lollygagging along looking in every cranny for morsels of food. If he tried, I’m sure he could cut another minute off that time.
Note: If my math calculations are wrong, blame Mr. Foster my high school algebra teacher.
Now that my mind was off to the races (no pun intended), no sense in going back to my book.
About halfway through his timed run, my ant came upon a small white chunk of what I’m guessing was a crumb of food. The bit of food he picked up was half as big as my ant. So now my ant is racing while lugging around something that to a man would weigh in the neighborhood of 50 to 100 pounds. Oh, and I forgot to mention, during his time trial, the ant also climbs over a pine needle (comparable to a fallen Redwood tree), crosses a crack in the concrete (equal to 35-foot deep chasm), and crawls over one of my grandkid’s crayons (going up and over a school bus).
Now we’re rolling.
Next I decided to see what type of conditions the ant is dealing with on this rather warm day in the high-80s. So I go into the house and get my fancy meat thermometer. I find the air temperature is 92, the surface of the cement in the shade is 94 and in the sun it is 106 degrees. On a surface similar to that of Mars, the ant moves along with absolutely no protection (and apparently, no concern).
So lets add all this up. Here we have an organism that in competition with a man (or woman) could run almost twice as fast over a harsh, bleak, rocky, hot desert environment while carrying a huge weight in his mouth. He could climb over giant obstacles and cross deep crevices without ever breaking stride. And the capper is; he could do all of this while naked, without sweating (I guess), and with little or no water (I guess). And he could keep this pace up all day long (I guess).
And we think we are the most superior creature on this planet.
Now you know why it takes me a month to finish a book.