Intro and Theory
In my research and design, I need to study the behaviors of insects, particularly bees and ants. There are many methods for learning about the actions and procedures of these other forms of life. You can read books and journals, analyze video footage, and even perform experiments. These are all terrific methods, and have their own particular strengths and weaknesses, but one factor that I felt was missing, was the ability to understand the creatures within their own timescale.
Often we build mental models of the interactions whose descriptions elide certain aspects of the total process. For instance, we could say that, given a certain pheromone, a colony of ants will do X, but often these descriptions skim over the tiny interactions which add up to the gestalt behavior, and which may take really long periods of time.
Additionally, an important part of deeply understanding these actions comes from being immersed in their behaviors. More immersive methods of biological study could help humans analyze the subjects' activities consciously and subconsciously. If one could actually live directly with the ants for an extended period of time, I believe that new understandings would arrive that would not normally be accessible through even very intense short term analysis.
For this reason I have designed the very first stage of what I am dubbing the "Arm-y" Ant farm**. Basically it is an Ant-farm that you can wear DIRECTLY on your arm. The hairs on your arm give you constant feedback as to the minute actions of your colony and provide a good anti-gravity substrate for your friends to climb around in.
Also it's fun! and weird!
(NOTE** I would not recommend actually putting army ants into the device (or any other painful ant). It's just a corny pun people!)
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Step 1: Materials
- Bank Tube
- Ants (preferably non-biting/stinging)
Step 2: Obtain a Pneumatic Tube
This was one of those tubes that you get from a drive up bank and accidentally forget to give it back. But you don't need to steal one, even on accident! Here is a place you can buy your own http://www.banktubesdirect.com/ (yeah that's seriously the URL!)
Step 3: Chop Off the Ends
Unscrew the caps at both ends and dremel out areas that will fit your arms. Lock it in a vice to keep it from moving all over the place.
Chances are that your forearms are too uneven along their lengths that you cannot use the full tube. You will have to chop off one of the ends to fit the narrow part of your arm.
Step 4: Fit, Sand, Refit
To get it comfortably on your arm, but still secure takes a good amount of sanding, cutting, and refitting.
Step 5: Load in Ants, Start Dual-Life
Your arm hair gives them a good substrate to crawl in and hold on to, and prevents them from flying all over the place when you move your arms.
Try to keep it on for at least 24 hours. Granted, because your arm is a strange environment and I didn't load in the whole colony, you won't really be experiencing typical life of ants, but it is a unique, interesting experience. One thing I noticed was that I would get phantom ant-crawly feelings on my opposite arm!
Step 6: Future Designs
Some problems are that the device gets pretty sweaty, it is hard to load and unload because you need to open the entire thing, and the end pointing towards your elbow does not have a sharp cutoff, meaning that the ants love to wedge themselves in the smaller and smaller space between your arm and the lid. Anyone have good ideas to make it not soo sweaty and more secure?
I was thinking of having it attach to your arm via a breathable diaphram on both sides that would tighten around your arm for a smooth fit instead of just carving the rigid ends to fit.