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November 18, 2002

Ants Invade iBook!

From Slashdot:

"Has anyone had this problem? I hope not . . . After the first rain of the year, the ants outside were restless (and homeless). My wife had left her ibook on the mantle charging overnight. The next morning we noticed a large number of ants milling around it. Upon inspection we discovered ants crawling in and out of every hole in the computer. I grabbed my can of compressed air and started blowing! To my horror hundreds of ants started pouring out carrying eggs!"


This has generated over 500 replies on Slashdot, 450 of them being lame jokes about buggy software. The rest, though, discussed the mysterious attraction that electricity has to ants. Alex did a research paper about this a year ago and dug up information from Texas Tech about fire ants and the havoc they wreak on transformers in the Southwest.

I can add my own datapoint to this topic, and it pre-dates laptops by several decades. Back in my Peace Corps years in Sierra Leone, I was lucky to have electricity in my house. The light switches were these plastic enclosures that were bowl-shaped, kind of like an old-fashioned doorbell. Every month or so, the lights would start to flicker and we'd hear a crackling sound coming from the switch. It became a routine chore whenever this happened to unscrew the switch and empty it out. What was it filled with? Thousands of ants, some still twitching, that had packed themselves into the switch until it started to short out. We'd whack the switch cover onto the ground outside and out would pop a single solid bowl-shaped block of highly concentrated anthood.

If this ever happens to my PowerBook, I think I'll use some other non-whacking strategy to clean it out.