Aussie ants take a bow

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Written by: Anne Nicholson, Brand Strategy Lead IBM A/NZ

Mauro Martino

Mauro Martino

While ants can be the villains of any picnic, in Network Earth they are the star turn in this award-winning short thanks to IBMer Mauro Martino. Mauro is a scientist and artist who works in IBM’s Cognitive Visualization Lab. His mission is to build tools that help people to “disseminate information as short videos – where the data and the visualisations are the actors.”

In 2016 he collaborated with three of his colleagues at Northeastern University. Jianxi Gao, Baruch Barzel, and Albert-László Barabási, and wrote a paper in Nature called Universal resilience patterns in complex networks. “The video I created, Network Earth, helps illustrate their theory by visually depicting the symbiotic relationship and mutualism between a handful of ant species and the plants upon which they depend, across Australia and New Guinea.”

Mauro built the video using IBM’s Network Data API. It’s a new service that provides insights into network data through cognitive algorithms for visual exploration and computational analysis.

Mauro’s enchanting design won the National Science Foundation award, a Vizzie, for best data video in 2016.

Fun facts about Aussie Ants

  • Some ant species are ruled by a single queen and others are supported by multiple queens

    Red ant

    A nip from a Red ant can cause severe pain

  • Bull ants have impressive vision and are able to track and follow intruders from a distance of 1 metre
  • Sugar ants do love their sugar, but anything sweet is considered yum
  • A Blue Ant is an ant in clever disguise. It’s actually a species of flower wasp
  • The technical name for ant farm is a formicarium
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