Sculpting (energy) data into (light)

Over the past month, I have been working with world energy data from 41 countries over the past 20 years to create a light. The countries are sorted into a circle based on the percentage of energy they use from renewable sources. Surface-mount LEDs will illuminate each of the 205 data points to demonstrate when a country is at their daily peak energy usage (4-7 PM). The brighter the LED shines, the closer the country is to these hours, creating a map of when and where energy is being consumed.

The data was processed in Python then brought into Rhino via RhinoPython. I will be 3D printing the final design in the next week!

Polyphonic composition

I have been wanting to do some algorithmic composing so this seemed like the perfect week to get that started while experimenting with polyphony! I used Mimi Yin’s Chorus sketch which uses the SoundCipher library. I played around with the various parameters and changed the voicing. I like the sound of the natural cycles that occur - the way it builds and falls off is nice, though unexpected. I thought it would be much more chaotic and difficult to control. I think playing more with dynamics and progressing past just an ocarina sound would help. I’d enjoy combining these generated sounds with my wave graphics from earlier in the semester as a visualizer. Play with the code on Github and listen below.

Polyphonic composition

I have been wanting to do some algorithmic composing so this seemed like the perfect week to get that started while experimenting with polyphony! I used Mimi Yin’s Chorus sketch which uses the SoundCipher library. I played around with the various parameters and changed the voicing. I like the sound of the natural cycles that occur - the way it builds and falls off is nice, though unexpected. I thought it would be much more chaotic and difficult to control. I think playing more with dynamics and progressing past just an ocarina sound would help. I’d enjoy combining these generated sounds with my wave graphics from earlier in the semester as a visualizer. Play with the code on Github and listen below.

Knit your own drug test (or, The Ammoniacal Fermentation of Urine for Use as a Drug Test and Dye)

In The Fungus Among Us, I experimented with mushrooms dyes. I later realized that I could substitute the ammonia that I had been using as a mordant with my own fermented urine. Metals and other substances can affect the color of your dye so for my final in Soil as Medium I would like to make dyes with fermented urine collected from people with a variety of diets and other habits. Ammonia is also the basis of many fertilizers (used a lot on leafy greens due to its high ammonia content). My plan is to try growing my own vegetables. One set will be pre-fertilized with the urine from my test subjects, the other group will have the ammonia added later as a mordant. In this way, I am testing the absorption of the ammonia and other substances for use later in the dye across multiple urine samples.

I’m not sure what these tests will show but above is one outcome that I have dreamed up. Drug tests bother me because I believe they are an invasion of privacy and I also oppose drugs’ illegal status. We should tax and regulate drugs and spend our money on treatment for those in need. To call attention to this I have designed a hypothetical “Knit your own drug test” kit. It is THE slowest way to test yourself for drugs, is highly inaccurate, all natural, and wearable! It is also a way to raise awareness of the natural possibilities of dyeing and the science of ammonia / fertilization.

Worms, etc.

This week I read The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the action of worms with observations of their habits by Charles Darwin, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, and the recent The Mental Life of Plants and Worms, Among Others in the NY Review of Books. Darwin’s depictions of worms reminded me of my own encounters with our slimy, segmented friends as I was growing up in Georgia. A heavy summer rain, which my mother might call a ‘gully-washer’, would draw hundreds of worms out to the streets after which a heatwave would fry them all to a crisp on the dark tar pavement of my cul-de-sac. Darwin observed a similar phenomena, “After heavy rain succeeding dry weather, an astonishing number of dead worms may sometimes be seen lying on the ground. Mr. Galton informs me that on one such occasion (March, 1881), the dead worms averaged one for every two and a half paces in length on a walk in Hyde Park, four paces in width.” Back in my neighborhood, worms fare much worse. You might find a dried up worm every 3-6 inches. When my dachshund was a puppy we used to catch her chewing on these ill-fated creatures as if they were beef jerky! I had no idea how hydrophilic worms are, but looking back it makes sense. “M. Perrier found that their exposure to the dry air of a room for only a single night was fatal to them. On the other hand he kept several large worms alive for nearly four months, completely submerged in water.” In his talk last week, James Sottilo mentioned that salt fertilizers are very drying which results in weak plant cell walls but I imagine this also effects worms - that is, if there are many left from all of the tilling and plowing.

Stray thoughts

The above image is an 1882 caricature of Darwin by Punch magazine parodying Darwin’s book.

Sue van Hook came to speak earlier this semester and mentioned that the only difference between blood and chlorophyll is the central atom (Iron for blood and Magnesium for chlorophyll).

I have been wondering how sound effects soil - does city noise pollution have any noticeable effect on soil biology? I have recently been interested in ultrasounds and am wondering if taking an ultrasound of some soil would reveal anything interesting…

Field guide of fungi crafts

I have had a lot of fun playing with fungi this semester. My focus has been on craft applications of fungi such as growing paper from mycelium and making dyes from mushrooms. I found it very difficult to find reliable sources of recipes for dyes but I now believe that there are countless ways artists could use fungi as a medium. Thus, for my final project, I proposed a field guide for fungi crafts. This site would rely on the contributions of individuals who are already experts in this area as well as those who are complete beginners, myself included. It is through this melding of perspectives and experiences that we might arrive at a guide that is useful to all. It would consist of tutorials each with a visual archive of user-contributed related works.

Above is a diagram based on Donella Meadows’ leverage points diagram. My main contributions to this system - in which artists are not exploring the full potential of fungi - are to enhance the culture of the system and to alter the flow of information. Wikis obviously achieve what I am to an extent but I think that wikis are not perfect and the system could be better designed. I haven’t really fleshed out how this user contribution process would work but I am beginning to develop this website in my dynamic web class.

As for my own personal fungi crafts— I had trouble finding ammonia that was not “soapy ammonia” which means that the ammonia did not act quite like it should in my dyes. I jokingly mentioned during my presentation that I could just let my own urine ferment for a few weeks to make my own ammonia and have since been reflecting on this idea. Metals and other substances can affect the color of a dyebath so I am now planning to gather urine samples from a variety of persons to test whether or not I am able to detect anything about them based on the resulting dye.

Soil sampling

Soil as Medium: Engaging the Urban Commons from the Ground Up has begun and seems like it will be a nice complement to The Fungus Among Us. I collected a soil sample from Gilbert Ramirez Park, a tiny park in my neighborhood. After the layers settled, I measured and tried to identify the soil type based on this diagram. I seems like it is closest to sandy loam but it doesn’t fit perfectly within the sandy loam ratios. Perhaps I’ll try again soon!

Last week I read The Soul of Soil and The Ideal Soil. The former text emphasizes a biological view of soil health while the latter encourages chemical analysis for treating soil. It was interesting to hear the rhetoric both use to make their points - “The basic aim of soil management is to provide hospitable conditions for life within the soil” as compared to, “Our physical reality is made of minerals, also known as elements […] The health, growth, and reproduction of all living things is dependent on the availability and proper balance of mineral elements.”

Soil sampling

Soil as Medium: Engaging the Urban Commons from the Ground Up has begun and seems like it will be a nice complement to The Fungus Among Us. I collected a soil sample from Gilbert Ramirez Park, a tiny park in my neighborhood. After the layers settled, I measured and tried to identify the soil type based on this diagram. I seems like it is closest to sandy loam but it doesn’t fit perfectly within the sandy loam ratios. Perhaps I’ll try again soon!

Last week I read The Soul of Soil and The Ideal Soil. The former text emphasizes a biological view of soil health while the latter encourages chemical analysis for treating soil. It was interesting to hear the rhetoric both use to make their points - “The basic aim of soil management is to provide hospitable conditions for life within the soil” as compared to, “Our physical reality is made of minerals, also known as elements […] The health, growth, and reproduction of all living things is dependent on the availability and proper balance of mineral elements.”

Kinetic design experiments

A couple of weeks ago I participated in Adi Marom’s kinetic design workshop based on the 1868 text, Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements . I was instantly interested in the planetary gears which consist of a sun gear in the center, multiple planet gears, and a ring gear. I decided to try to push the number of planet gears to the max with the goal in mind of creating a dynamic sculpture sometime in the future. Above is my working prototype along with the calculations I had to make to get there. I used this wonderful gear generator and edited everything in illustrator to create the frame. I would like to try adding another round of teeth to the ring gear, another set of planets, and an additional ring.

The Metamorphosis (in Sound)

Continuing the work I did last semester with my Processing-based text-to-sound project, I decided to embed one of the tracks I created in the respective text. I chose the sound generated from The Metamorphosis.

I used an Adafruit Trinket which is compatible with the Arduino IDE and is the size of my thumb. This tutorial helped me to get started storing the sound to a one megabyte SPI Flash chip. This chip can’t hold very much so I limited the track to a minute, though, I could probably double the length and still be okay with storage.

I also included an on/off switch, potentiometer for controlling volume, preamp with LM 386, and a speaker. I would like my next prototype to include a switched headphone jack that can detect when something is plugged in.

The “book” part of this project opens to reveal a graphic explaining the sound and a generated poem. The program I wrote looks for the frequency of each word in the text and the length of the word. From this data, I map the word frequency to a pitch (higher frequency equals higher pitch) and the length of the word to the length of the note. Words that meet certain criteria of word length and frequency were added to the “poem”.

found himself transformed
horrible vermin
lifted little
brown belly slightly domed
arched stiff section
bedding hardly cover
seemed
slide
moment
pitifully compared
waved about helplessly

The audio track, graph, and poem read through the first few pages of The Metamorphosis.

I would like to continue to refine this circuit and produce another prototype that is embedded in the actual book! I haven’t yet decided if I’ll try to find a used copy of The Metamorphosis or if I’ll take the time to learn about book binding and fabrication and make my own. In class, it was really wonderful to see everyone passing around my book and bringing it close to their ears. Audiobooks are so passé; soundbooks are in.

Timing and pacing

For this week’s homework, I decided to use the Processing sketches I have been working on for the past couple of weeks and tweak them into coherent compositions by manipulating the type of wave being drawn, the density of the drawing, and the color of the drawing over time. The first part lasts 20 seconds and has a slow, building rhythm. I see this as about 70 beats per minute. The drawing tool runs across the page but still feels contained. The second part is a sort of scherzo (in this case ~120 beats per minute). Blue begins to vibrate across the composition. The third part begins rather quietly - the vibrant blue / purple has receded into a dull blue / purple. The excitement finally begins to rise again when the color shifts to green and the drawing tool becomes increasingly frenzied. This part lasts 30 seconds and goes from ~80 beats per minute to ~95 beats per minute.

I bought some lovely variegated yarn this week for some socks I want to knit and these layered compositions remind me of it.