Ant and Bicycle Information

Ant and Bicycle

Could an ant ride a bicycle? is Tim King’s first major popular science book (100.000 words).  In it he compares the intellectual abilities of ants and humans, and sometimes finds humans wanting.

Ants and humans are the dominant animals on land in terms of dry mass. In organization, ‘intelligence’, and population sizes, the higher ants and humans are the most sophisticated invertebrates and vertebrates respectively. They are similar in many ways. Despite their superficial differences, at the level of the gene, the cell and the nervous system, ants and humans are remarkably similar. Both exploit many other species for food. Ants and humans are the only organisms to keep cattle, grow crops, go to war, embark on expeditions, build long-term houses, and shift vast quantities of soil. Both ants and humans are very sociable arch-communicators.

To reinforce his contention that the ability of the higher ants has been underestimated because of our inability to understand their language, Tim King cites the latest research on ant communication, brains, behavior and the different roles of workers within a colony, He discusses whether the attribution by humans of superior reasoning power to themselves is justified by the evidence, and whether or not humans have free will. He compares in detail the main elements in ant and human evolution, concluding that the higher ants and humans both illustrate, in different ways, the inevitable increase in mental and behavioural complexity in biological and social evolution. This reflects the philosophical ideas of Francis Crick and Christoph Koch. So the similarities have evolved for very similar reasons. Humans can even learn from ants to some extent about how best to organise their life styles.

Whilst writing the book, Tim King has been stimulated by the positive reception given to his talks – six on ‘Could an ant ride a bicycle?’ to various University Groups around Oxford, and eleven to local natural history societies and U3As including a discussion of ant and human ‘intelligence’.  

Tim King is an accomplished biologist across a wide range of biological topics and an experienced author, having published nearly 750,000 words. He is always willing to consider new writing projects or opportunities to lecture on 'Ants, ant intelligence and ant-hills' or 'Could an Ant Ride a Bicycle?'.

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