Interactive Models

Ecological equations:

The interconnection of various species populations is hard to comprehend even when represented graphically. We are working on creating a mechanical representation involving strings and pulleys that demonstrates to participants through play and manipulation how plants, herbivores, carnivores and decomposers affect each other’s population and how other factors such as habitat and biodiversity “tie in” to the system as well. This should illustrate other concepts such as stable and unstable equilibrium and “ecosystem collapse”.

Positive feedback loops:

One of the most frightening things about global climate change and other ecological problems is that of positive feedback loops that spin far out of human control. These include fires, droughts, loss of refractory surfaces of melting ice, and the release of carbon through the melting of the permafrost. Such processes have been documented to a high degree of accuracy but are difficult to translate intuitively.

For this reason we are building a series of interconnected mechanisms where participants can explore the amount of CO2e they are releasing to the air and watch the effects on increase of endogenous release of greenhouse gases and at what point this process would not be stoppable even if all human activity would stop.

Efficiency and waste:

There are many non-tangible elements of our lives such as energy, money, and food that could really use some degree of “reification” in order for us to make better decisions about them. Rustling Roots will create demonstrations for efficiency and waste by using liquids with leaky vessels or transmission paths to show the ratio between retention and waste and thermochromic dyes to show heat loss/retention. We will also raise fundamental questions about efficiency in general.

  • How much energy does an engine use?
  • How much of it is wasted as heat?
  • How does that waste increase as a function of velocity in a car’s engine?
  • What is the most efficient way to cook food?
  • Is it better to buy local or seasonal products?
  • How much money is wasted in the process of health insurance? Dental insurance? Car insurance?
  • How can we characterize the diminishing marginal utility of wealth accumulation? How wasteful is money redistribution through taxation?
  • What percentage of food is wasted and at what sector?
  • How is water wasted if it exists in a cycle?
  • How much more efficient are new proposed measures to these various aspects of waste?

Closed Loop Biological Model:

A hydroponic system can be a closed loop provided it receives enough sunlight. Such a model can show the proportions of plants to bacteria to fish to be sustainable. By comparison a mouse would need much more area in order to both uptake its CO2 exhales, provide it with oxygen and feed it. This difference shows what a warm blooded animal requires compared to a cold-blooded one. It also shows the role of plants in feeding, exchanging gases, and uptaking waste.