Ants: Mid-Contest Analysis

Posted by Matthew Simoneau,

Mid-Contest Analysis

The lights are finally on and we can see what all those ants have been up to for the last few days. Here at Contest Central, we picked five entries that have been contest leaders at one time or another and challenged them with five tough puzzles. To make things especially interesting, we pitted two entries against each other for each of the five puzzles, so you’ll be able to compare and contrast the strategies.

For each puzzle, you see a screenshot of how much progress each team of ants was able to make after 1000 time intervals. You also get a link to a very exciting movie of each event.

Note: we picked these puzzles because they are entertaining. They are not indicative of the puzzles in the actual test suite. Obviously this means that the ants shown have not necessarily been tuned to solve these kinds of problems. Even so, the level of performance they achieve is remarkable. Also note that the static screenshots don’t come from the same simulation as the movie, so the results don’t match exactly.



1. Find the food

Zee5 vs. bedlam. The food is plentiful but hidden from view in this first example. Both colonies are about equally puzzled by the problem. Watch the video.

2. So much food, so little time

NotAnImprovement vs. rummel. In this puzzle there is an endless amount of food. Both ant colonies act on the strategy of shifting food one square at a time rather than making long round trips. NotAnImprovement clearly walks away with the prize on this one.

Watch the video.

3. Unreachable temptation

bedlam vs. Solver17log. Neither ant colony is confused by this puzzle, in which we tried to fake out ants by placing food behind an unbreathable wall.

Watch the video.

4. Pick a door, any door

rummel vs. Zee5. This puzzle contains seven long galleries of which only two are loaded with food. The screenshot you see below doesn’t do justice to how well rummel performs in the movie. It makes an astonishingly efficient bucket brigade, siphoning food out of the long galleries and into the nest.

Watch the video.

5. Should I go home or not?

Solver17log vs. NotAnImprovment. Neither colony finds the distant ant hill that would have eliminated the long return trip to the original home base.

Watch the video.

Because it is so easily visualized, this is shaping up to be a good contest for spectators and contestants alike. Thanks to everyone who has participated so far, and we look forward to seeing you in the queue.

Published with MATLAB® 7.1

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