Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Micro Parks

So, I'm re-reading Vernor Vinge's "A Deepness in the Sky" (which is amazing; I'm on my 3rd read-through and it's still riveting). One of my favorite ideas in the book is that on hundreds-of-years voyages between the stars, at 0.3C (about 1/3 lightspeed), with the crew spending rotating shifts in coldsleep, shipboard "parks" of various sizes are treasured luxuries. And on smaller ships, they often have to make do with little self-contained microparks, clear plastic spheres containing mini-biospheres, complete with tiny animals (midges and ants, maybe) and plants.

And, lo! Here we have the real deal -- sort of. Created by NASA and now sold by Brookstone, these little EcoSpheres® have been around for years. But it was nice to be reminded of them, and told where I can buy one, right when I happened to be thinking (and dreaming) about such a thing. Thanks BLTD!

Some stats:

Life expectancy
EcoSphere has an average life expectancy of two years; however, in the right conditions some have lived for up to 10 years.

For best results:
- Do not shake!
- Supply 6-12 hours of light a day
- Avoid direct sunlight
- Keep temperature at 60-85°F

The inside story
EcoSphere is a delicate balance of earth, water, air and life—all parts of a working ecosystem.

Light—the foundation of life. Fluorescent light or indirect sunlight provides everything your ecosystem needs; there’s no feeding or cleaning required.
Seawater—provides the backdrop for this educational, self-contained marine environment.
Red shrimp—chosen for their nonaggressive tendencies towards one another, these tiny crustaceans live in perfect harmony with their mini environment.
Algae—healthy growth sustains and nourishes shrimp by supplying food and oxygen.
Microbes—to feed the algae.
Other materials—Gorgonia sprig, gravel, shells and glass provide ample hiding places and smooth surfaces for microbes to attach themselves to and thrive.

[via BLTD]


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