For some reason people typically explain how Möbius strips function with the example of ants walking on them.
e.g. from Wikipedia: "If an ant were to crawl along the length of this strip, it would return to its starting point having traversed the entire length of the strip (on both sides of the original paper) without ever crossing an edge."
Well, why leave this as simply a thought experiment? You can test it out for yourself and at the same time supply your pet ants with a weird engaging surface to play on!
Technology can place creatures into non-natural contexts to highlight certain behaviors. The super cool myrmecologist, Deborah Gordon in “one of [her] favorite experiments...varied the density of ants in a place where they had no edge to prefer- on a sphere." She covered "a soccer ball with a nylon stocking, to give the ants some traction, and hung it from the ceiling by a wire that the ants
could not climb." This let her examine the clustering tendency of ants without the effects of walls (which they also like to cluster against). (From her book, Ant Encounters).
This project is quite a bit less rational and goal-oriented, but who knows, through critically engaged making you could build all sorts of tacit knowledge about the world and behavioral systems, which could prime you to make discoveries of your own. This comes from an assignment in our project studio at the Digital World and Image Group.
The goal of this craft is to create a hanging Moebius strip for live ants to crawl upon. It is inspired by the escher drawings of ants on Moebius strips, and also the Moebius strip’s archetypal description that “If an ant were to crawl along the length of this strip, it would return to its starting point having traversed every part of the strip (on both sides of the original paper) without ever crossing an edge.”
We are going to make a primarily sculptural/aesthetic device to hang over our boxes of ant nests. We should be able to load ants onto the strips and watch them wander around in endless crazy loops. To keep with the current aestethic of our ant containers, the strips will be forged from transparent acrylic. The primary crafting experience in this project comes from building the tacit knowledge of turning and manipulating hot molten acrylic.
Step 1: Materials
- 24 inch long acrylic sheets (1/8th in) (I get mine from Mcmaster Carr)
- 3 Hard rubber (somewhat heat resistant) clamps
- Heat Gun (or probably hair-dryer will work)
- Monofilament (thin fishing string)
- Cylindrical, heavy, heat resistant wrapping surface. I used 7-8inch diameter glass ash tray.
- Additional heat resistant cylinder (comes in handy sometimes)
- Something to cut the acrylic sheets (I used a laser cutter, a dremel with the right bit could also work, or a bandsaw)
- Wet sponge. If you want to make a part of the acrylic instantly cooler and freeze into place, dab it with the sponge.
- Hot Glue
Insect Aspirator (For catching your own Ants) (or you could use the bucket and shovel and water method described here)
Step 2: Cut
Step 3: Wiggle Loose
Step 4: Twist
Step 5: Wrap
Step 6: Connect and Smooth
Step 7: Tie It Together
If you are really good with acrylic you could also try to use weld-on to fuse the ends together, or simply heat the ends up REALLY hot and squish them together. I have tried both, but they were hard to make it look nice.
Xiao tested out this craft, and offered this advice:
"Doing this is very fun and crafty. It definitely need time and patience. The trick is to heat the material even so that it won’t be over twisted at some parts or under twisted at others. It’s also very important to control the strength of twisting. I broke up the trial piece once because I was pulling too hard. I recommend everyone to try this out. It’s definitely a very unique experience."