The aqua-hamster and the artificial gill (1964)


Sounds interesting, but the link isn’t working for me. I’ll need to web search this one.

Darn Hamsters exercising their right to be forgotten.

I believe link is as follows:

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This explains how Sandy Cheeks managed to make a life for herself on Bikini Bottom.


I wonder if anyone has revisited the technology in the past 50 years. Materials and manufacturing technology have changed a lot. Things that were impossible then are routinely done at large scale today.


Articles like this tend to gloss over the details behind the project. They say that mass manufacturing was a problem, and that’s probably true, but they failed to mention that you would have to process multiple gallons of seawater every minute with this system to supply a single person with enough air. It would be large and cumbersome and would take a lot of energy to keep running and would be a lot more prone to failure than a simple pressurized tank.


Position yourself in a stream and the water comes to you. As it is said in real estate industry, location-location-location. :stuck_out_tongue:

Energy can be provided in-situ. Pressurized tank is an alternative but it is dependent on the surface logistics. A passive system harvesting oxygen from naturally flowing water can be handy in scenarios where tanks won’t cut it.

…thought… how would a gene-modded underwater-capable human look?


Hal Clement is on the job


This should work for a submerged ant farm.

How about it, Science?

The problem is that water has less than one-thousandth of the amount of oxygen gas per gallon as the equivalent volume of amount air.

That’s a problem if you want to have a mammalian metabolism – and support a brain.

Evolution consistently concludes that if you want to live in the open ocean and have a high metabolism, you pretty much have to be air breathing, like a seal, a whale, or a plesiosaur.

If you want to only “breathe” water, you’re going to have to be cold-blooded ,and only be “active” in bursts. Like a shark. Good luck keeping a brain warm and functional with that physiology.

About the best you can hope for is to be a Tuna, which is “warm-blooded” for its brain, sometimes.

I don’t see anyway a “gene-modded” human beats this physical limitation without a scuba tank.


IIRC, Robb’s demonstration required the hamster to be kept tranquilised to slow its metabolism down.

But the linked article misses the point of Robb’s work, which was to develop an artificial lung – he wanted a membrane thin enough for oxygen to pass from air into fluid – the fact that it also worked the other way just made for a dramatic demonstration. Evidently journalists 50 years ago were are stupid as contemporary ones, and focussed on the military application of “supplying submarines with air drawn from the water around them”, rather than on the medical goal.

Here’s a better photograph:

Walter Robb seems to be hale and hearty]1; it would be interesting to hear his retropsective.


I want to know about that thing at the end of the article!

In October, Danish scientists synthesized a crystal that sucks oxygen from air and water and releases it later. A few grains can store enough oxygen for a breath, making it an ideal candidate for underwater breathing.


Wasn’t this fellow working on something similar?

Lightweight version:

Heavy version:

The chemical is based on a cobalt atom complexed with nitrogen heterocycles into a structure somewhat resembling the naturally occuring heme or chlorophyll structures, where the organic complex is also a nitrogen heterocycle, a porphyrin derivative.

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The problem is definitely challenging. I can see a workaround in sacrificing the fidgety and energy burning mammalian metabolism, and reserve the high-energy part only for a well-insulated brain, modified for ability to go dormant without hypoxic damage (like some animals can).

A good starting point. Also we can look at cephalopods, which are cold-blooded but at the same time highly intelligent.

Would likely require to sacrifice the form factor of human body, and to engineer the body more or less from scratch…

That could be royal fun!

They weren’t gene-modded, they were at the bottom of the ocean. I think the idea was that the high pressures would solve the problems of breathing water. …?


More that the undersea colony was surrounding themselves with a fluid form of Unobtanium which could dissolve far more oxygen (and CO2) than water; and could transfer it down the plumbing to the lungs without having to exhale and inhale it all the time (which would be far more effort for a water substitute than for air).

This was a long time ago. I remember cover art better than plots.


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