It was a beautiful Spring day and I was standing atop Hoover Dam, looking down at the Colorado River and reflecting on the amazing, even magical nine days I had just spent rafting the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. While thinking about my recent great adventure, I noticed a tiny ant, no more than 1/4 inch long, at most, making its way along the concrete rim. The contrast in size between this tiny ant and the massive bulk of the dam struck me and seemed to emphasize the ant’s insignificance.
Earlier that morning, however, I had been listening to a news report of the Mars rover and its role in the search for life on our nearest planetary neighbor. And suddenly, from out of the blue I became aware that this tiny, tiny creature was more unique and advanced than anything NASA, with all its extraordinary scientific and technological sophistication, has been able to discover in its search for evidence of life in the universe. Though dwarfed by the awesome edifice on which it was crawling, the ant represented a biological entity that was more advanced than anything our best thinkers, scientists and engineers have been able to find. And while our greatest efforts have been directed at our nearest planetary neighbor, nothing in the vast entirety of the universe has ever been detected that even comes close to the sophistication of that ant.
And with this realization I suddenly became much more involved in learning all I could about ants, which, I’m discovering, have a much more interesting lifestyle than I ever would have imagined.
With a Perspective, I’m Ray Pestrong.
Ray Pestrong is a professor emeritus of geology at San Francisco State University.