Monday, August 7, 2017

Shoutout to the City of Anture

I don't know how this escaped my notice for long. I think I was dimly aware of it a few years back but forgot about it when Googling "Anture" and "City of Anture" didn't turn up any results. The City of Anture is (was) a project by one 'Iris Corven' to build an underwater ant farm. Sound familiar?
I found out about it because Mr. Corven commented on a recent post on this blog. If you're reading this, for some stupid reason I can't reply to comments here, I dunno if it's a problem with Chrome, with Blogspot, with Google accounts or what.

But what a cool project you built! It looks to be one of those gel ant farms where the substrate they burrow through is also their ongoing source of both food and water. A great choice for a self-contained underwater ant colony as this way, you never need to bring it to the surface to replenish the food or water.

 The only points I take off are for the tiny aquarium it's in, and the fact that the colony is 1atm. I made this mistake too with the very first Hampture prototype, using a stagnant air return tube. Connecting it directly back to the surface that way makes the air pressure inside the habitat the same as at the surface.
This is a bad way to go, since it means there is a pressure differential involved. The water pressure outside the habitat is greater than the air pressure inside, which can lead very easily to leaks. Maybe not at first, but as wear and tear accumulate.

 The surprisingly easy solution to this? Don't have an air return tube. Let it bubble out. It has to overcome the outside water pressure to do so, which means it first must build up to a slight internal overpressure.

This overpressure ensures that wherever there is a crack, air can bubble out, but water cannot seep in. The water would have to get past the higher pressure air. This is called an ambient pressure habitat, and it's inherently safer/more fault tolerant than one atmosphere.

Ants don't need much airflow compared to hamsters, but there are in-line valves for aquarium pumps that let you reduce the airflow to the desired amount. This will reduce the bubble plume and won't dry out the top layer of gel.

There's also no ballast weights on the habitat. It seems he glued(!) it to the bottom of the aquarium. I would not recommend this. The stress will eventually overcome the glue and shoot the ant farm up to the surface. Properly attached ballast weights are needed.

This is a very cool overall idea that could easily be revisited with these small changes. It would be really cool to see footage of an ant farm like this with LED lighting inside the top of the lid (to make the ants more visible in the gel) sitting on the bottom of a pond or lake.

The edible gel gives this project a lot more autonomy than a hamster habitat. If somebody set up an underwater ant farm of this type, ambient pressure, in a pond next to their home and used grid power for the air pump (or better yet the pump is inside so cold weather doesn't kill it, and there's just a fucking long air tube running to the pond) it could potentially be fine by itself for several months.

There's also a wide variety of different gel antfarm enclosure designs to play around with, that would look more suitable as an underwater structure:
They are overwhelmingly very close to airtight because of the necessity of not having any small openings ants could escape through, so they don't look difficult to make watertight, especially given that ambient pressure habitats don't even really need to be fully watertight. 
If you're reading this Iris, I salute your efforts so far, but you stopped too soon! There's so much untapped potential here! I have my hands full with hampture but would love to see you pursue more ambitious versions of Anture in tandem. With LED lighting, ballast weights, ambient pressure, in a natural body of water. All that good stuff.

If you need help/advice with stuff like ballasting, buoyancy calculation for weights, electrical power supply for lighting or heating, drop those questions in the comments on my blog and I'll somehow get back to you about it. 

Greenhab has plants again!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Grass is growing again in Greenhab!

Why now? What was wrong before? My hunch is that the hotter, drier Summer air being pumped down into the hab was carrying away moisture faster than usual, so the normal rate of watering wasn't cutting it. 

All I did was increase the amount of water, and now look at all the little sprouts! I really need to study plant care, because I'd like to build a larger, more ambitious dedicated plant habitat after mega hab is finished (if I ever get to that, life has been crazy lately.)

Seeing what the Nemo's Garden project has accomplished opened my eyes to the fact that plants, uniquely, can survive in an underwater air pocket exposed on the bottom to the sea because the rate of oxygen and CO2 exchange between the water surface and the air is sufficient for the respiratory needs of most plants.

That's how they are able to raise so many plants in those inflatable bubble habs without any air compressors on the surface. It makes me want to experiment with a passive life support plant habitat of my own. It also makes me wonder how large it would have to be, and how many plants, to support the respiratory needs of a single hamster. Maybe the food needs as well?

The way those domes are designed, the condensation trickles down the sides and right into the soil, so it's self-watering too. A habitat like that could be an autonomously self-supporting mini-world for the single hamster resident. Maybe more, I'd have to do some napkin math. Either all male or all female though for obvious reasons. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017