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Voltage and Current

Electrons flowing through a circuit create a current. Voltage is the force that drives the current between two points.

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Measuring ANT-eres

How can an ant colony be used to show when amperes are used, and how the unit of current is affected by other factors?

Credit: Duncan Hull
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk/5087078071/sizes/o/in/photolist-8KwB5B-9FARzg-cHPzCb-cuDqbw-cuDrgY-93iV3q-9TDVFp-8MjTXw-8MjG4E-dhhLKY-etv6hz-dnLGKv-7QfD38-civnm1-aGhkwi-9KcrSF-7zUoih-aDWwwi-an2H9S-dXZD91-bn842S-7G789e-9FAR82-84YrSq-bBi4bH-ahXzva-dVaAXE-7CS6HP-c6f87j-eawd6k-9CWoDc-85mHic-eawd5X-eaBSoS-81tyG3-8gTwEM-97nkdg-9SMEra-cjJ9sA/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Could a trail of ants be measured in amperes? [Figure1]

When we become hungry and run low on food, we can simply run down to the supermarket or have a bite in a restaurant. However, wild animals and insects have to look for their food everyday. Ants happen to be very good at systematically foraging for food and carrying out other important activities for the ant colony.

If we look around closely enough outside, we might find a continuous trail of ants. Let's say the colony’s food supply has been depleted. What do you think the ants might be doing then? Most likely they are seeking a new food supply to fuel the colony. When a supply has been found, the ants begin a trail towards it.

Think of the ant-food system like a battery. The ant colony is located at the negative side of the battery, and the ants move around the circuit to the positive side of the battery where the food supply is located. Ants are attracted to food just as negative charges are attracted to positive charges.

Creative Applications

1. If the “ant circuit” were measured in amperes, what property of the ants’ movement would we be looking at? (Hint: Think of what we are actually measuring when we measure current in a circuit.)

2. Food depletion is the factor that created the trail in the first place. What essential property of electric circuits can this factor be compared to?   

3. Looking at circuits, when the property from the previous question is high, how is the current in amperes affected?

4. The colony’s food supply is less than half of what it should be. Could this lead to a high amperage for a resulting “ant circuit?” Why or why not?

5. The colony has a food surplus! What could we possibly say about the ant circuit now? 

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