Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cymatics - wave phenomena

Cymatics is the study of "wave phenomena." I finally have a name for this intriguing phenomena. This is great. Naming a thing seems to give it more weight, more staying power. I can say my artwork has to do with cymatics, and people may not know what I mean, but they sure will know I'm up to something.

On a more serious note, here's some patterns in coffee, photographs taken by a science-photographer, Robert Anderson. These patterns were created using a 20 Hz vibration, which is the "normal mode frequency" of the coffee cup. The pattern is beautiful. I think I could reproduce these in water in various containers. It would be really interesting to actually pour the actual bronzes for Tibetan singing bowls. Water Tibetan bowls can produce many different patterns apparently.
These patterns, essentially the opposite of the Chladni patterns, in that the nodes and anti-nodes are reversed. It's interesting to see how these patterns resemble architectural elements, such as the rose windows in cathedrals.

Goethe famously said "Architecture is frozen music." Several artists and musicians are attempting to translate architectural structures into music. What if music is coded into the architecture, as is theorized by the at the Rosslyn Chapel? Tommy Mitchell claims to have decoded the "frozen music" in the carving and statues at Rosslyn Chapel. [1] Each of some 213 unusually decorated cubes in the Rosslyn Chapel very closely relate to specific patterns generated by the Eidophone - the musical instrument created by Ernst Chladni to visualize the physical patterns of tones. Mitchell translated each of the patterns into the corresponding notes, and had a choir sing them. A great deal of effort has been expended to ensure the authenticity of the music, and he had it reproduced and recorded. He believes that it is much more than simply a lost sheet of music and that the actual resonances might hold the key to unlocking some wisdom that the Knights Templar locked away. Playing these resonances might actually knock a stone loose, according to Mitchell.
Hopefully, knowing masons of this period of time were aware of the acoustic properties and the effect of resonance upon stone, we're hoping something falls loose… it's like a safe.... What it's saying is we've forgotten more than we know. [2]
For my project, I'm considering combining visualization/sonification of the unseen/unheard - such as EMF, infra red, and static - with symbolization and resonance of cymatics. This idea of resonances unlocking keys, moving stone, and creating comlplex maps and puzzles is really fascinating to me.

Cymatics on Wikipedia: "Influences in art Jenny's book influenced Alvin Lucier and, along with Chladni, helped lead to Lucier's composition Queen of the South. Jenny's work was also followed up by Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) founder Gyorgy Kepes at MIT. [2] His work in this area included an acoustically vibrated piece of sheet metal in which small holes had been drilled in a grid. Small flames of gas burned through these holes and thermodynamic patterns were made visible by this setup. Based on work done in this field, photographer Alexander Lauterwasser captures imagery of water surfaces set into motion by sound sources ranging from pure sine waves, to music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Karlheinz Stockhausen, electroacousticKymatik(who often record in surround sound ambisonics), and overtone singing. In 2007 Thomas J. Mitchell and his son Stuart told the press they had decoded 'frozen music' based on sculptures in Rosslyn Chapel, in part by using cymatics.[3]"

-- notes --
1 http://www.divine-art.com/rosslynmotet.htm
2 http://heritage.scotsman.com/myths.cfm?id=627062006
3 "Cymatics"
group Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cymatics

Monday, October 29, 2007

The importance of sound, resonance, dissonance

The winner of Discovery's Science in Two Minutes or Less, String theory contest

“The words rang true.” Metaphors can be very descriptive, and those that use sound can be especially powerful. Why is that such metaphors make so much sense?

It is music to my ears.

I drummed the rules into them.
It worked in perfect harmony.
It's all just noise to me.
All that jazz.
It really rings true for me.

As a metaphor, sound, harmonics, and resonance really makes sense for people. [1] What characteristics of sound are different from form other stimuli? Sound communicates information uniquely, perhaps because it's qualities are different, perhaps because we perceive it in a different way than our other senses. EM fields, light, sound and smells all permeate our space. EM can pass through most objects; natural and man made fields are everywhere, but not detectable by our senses – save the sliver of the visible spectrum. Visible light fills a room, and is perhaps the most informative sense as far as describing spaces around us. But the mind is often accustomed to categorizing and labeling what we see, and we often only see what we think is there. Not what is really there. Smells can permeate an area and fill a room, but the sense of smell is ephemeral and fleeting. Sometimes smell only lasts for a moment, and sometimes conjures up fleeting memories. Sound is a pervasive energy. Sound's qualities of resonance, harmony and dissonance can be more easily perceived through the senses of hearing, and touch unlike resonance and interference of light and EM fields. Multiple sounds can become harmonious, can become resonant and amplify, or can become dissonant. The effects of sound can be heard instantly as well, where sometimes changes in light sometimes can go unnoticed.

I am visualizing these resonances as fibers vibrating like violin strings. [3,4]

Carlos Castaneda describes a metaphysical world in which everything is connected by lines of emanations. These lines of emanations are like strings of light connecting everything. He has created some powerful metaphors for viewing the world around us. [7]

Everything has a frequency. Anything that physically vibrates at from 20 Hz to 20kHz, effectively makes sound, from individual atoms, to the stars. Research has shown that There's even some scientific basis for this. String theory, atomic resonance, lasers. [8]

An interferometer is a device that detects the difference in wave – such as EMF. Very sensitive ones are built to test the basic principles of science, such as the theory of gravity. When building them any background vibration can destroy the readings. “This background is the sound of atoms at work: the steady rustling of the vibrating atoms in the mirrors, the sound of violins (generated as the suspension fibers recoil from their own vibrating atoms) and the occasional fiberquakes (due to sudden realignments of microscopic crystal boundaries in the suspension fibers)” [6]

Everything vibrates, from atoms on up to macroscopic bodies such as plants and people. This energy that is always present, an untapped potential, subtle communication between our bodies and the world around us, is why it is becoming more important to me and my work. Acoustics and music and sound have emotional power and kinetic power. Music can stir the soul, and large numbers of people can find similar music empowering, uplifting, depressing.

Sound can also be used as weapon, note the riot control sonic weapons now being developed. Sound can be used to send signals - as communication. Sound can shatter glass, sound can create resonances that can vibrate bridges apart. [9]

Egyptians used hieroglyphs as icons and signifiers. When representing items not easily distilled into an glyph, they represented sounds. Interestingly, they only represented consonants. It was incumbent upon the reader to determine what the inter-placed vowels were, based on what word it represented. This presented a problem if two words had the same set of consonants, but was easily solved with a glyph called a determinant. The determinant was an extra descriptive word that gave a clue as to which word to choose. The Egyptians were among the first to represent sounds of words with pictures.

I devised a kind of metaphoric language to view the world:

1. Everything and everyone resonates with a particular frequency
2. People have particular resonances that are stronger than others
3. People that get along well 'resonate' with each other.
- They might have different resonances, but create harmonics with the different frequencies
4. Objects have the same resonant or tonal frequencies.

-- notes --
1 Just want to acknowledge as a Westerner, this makes sense to me. I'm not sure about other cultures or social groups.

2 OK what am I really trying to say? I'm trying to set the basis for communicating something that works inside of me: we often say something resonates with me. Something
Figures of speech can be very descriptive, and there are many metaphors use sound.

3 In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Douglas Adams writes about a satellite playing Bach, as the universal music describing everything. This didn't influence this visualization as much, but it does have an interesting parallel.

4 Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series also suggests an interesting use of strings, probably derived more from a literal interpretation of string theory. Every particle, every atom, every consciousness is a mote or string called a philote, which intertwines and combines to form living beings, planets, whatever. The ones that are complex and intellegent enough to hold together a living being are called aiúa – Sanskrit for life.

5 Interferometry – study of wave by using interference properties of waves and light.

6 http://www.ligo.caltech.edu/LIGO_web/9812news/9812han.html

7 Carlos Castaneda. Several books. The assemblage point is the point about which the awareness is rotated to alter a person's perception in viewing the world. Each person's assemblage point is a cocoon of energies called the “Eagle's Emanations.” 'Filaments of awareness' penetrate this cocoon, creating perception.

8 Chase, Sandy. “String Ducky.” Discover Magazine. Visited 10-20-07.

[9] The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was destroyed in 40 mph winds in 1940. This relatively light wind was in a perfect resonance with the bridge's resonance, causing an amplification of the standing waves, and eventual collapse.

Other types of resonances are:
Sound: Harmonies, music, timbre,
Light: EM Waves
- magnetic fields
- electric fields
- radio fields
- elf, vlf, microwave

Thursday, October 25, 2007

String theory, well, not quite

Two mathematicians who study hyperbolic space have finally found a way to demonstrate what they work with by knitting it.

Daina Taimina uses crocheting to visualize hyperbolic geometry. (Discovery Magazine)

What a great way to represent something using such a simple metaphor.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mechanical Wave Driver for Chladni Plate

I was doing some research on sound for my map project and I discovered this:

Mechanical Wave Driver for Chladni Plate - Instructables

I've been collecting and taking apart speakers to play with different sounds and the way they vibrate and feel. These patterns are really interesting and I'm wondering what I'll discover when I start messing with the sound and my environment boxes.

Acoustic Biology

Acoustic Biology studies the effect of sound on living organisms. [1] My research into sound as a form of energy and as something that effects material... is helping me define language I can start to use to talk about my work.

Resonance, harmonics, acoustics. How do these qualities affect living organisms, such as plants? Some research has been done, mostly in the Eastern world.
Most acupuncture points and meridian points are the high electric conductance points on body surface and vice versa. A model has been proposed that acupuncture points are organizing centers in morphogenesis. At the macroscopic level, they are singular points (e.g. sinks, sources) in the morphogen gradient, phase gradient and electromagnetic field. Meridians are separatrices. [2]
What is interesting here is that the areas on plants and the human body that correspond to the Chinese meridian system used in Eastern medicine can be measured via their conductive and electromagnetic properties. They also are areas that form the basis of changes within a developing embryo.

1. Tan Shen Mynn and Huang Shiqin, Jean. INVESTIGATING THE EFFECTS OF SOUND ENERGY ON PLANT GROWTH. Visited 10-23-07. http://sps.nus.edu.sg/~tanshenm/2171.pdf
(Note that this paper makes several unfounded statements, all of which make very interesting claims, especially as an artist, even if they really aren't being completely supported.)
2. Shang,
Charles. The Meridian System And The Mechanism Of Acupuncture. Boston University School of Medicine Boston University School of Medicine. 21st,
The VXM Network, http://www.vxm.com, 1996.

Acoustic droplet ejection - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Acoustic droplet ejection - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Acoustic droplet ejection A 2 nL droplet of DMSO being ejected from a reservoir A 2 nL droplet of DMSO being ejected from a reservoir Acoustic droplet ejection (ADE) uses a pulse of ultrasound to move low volumes of fluids (typically nanoliters or picoliters) without any physical contact. This technology focuses acoustic energy into a fluid sample in order to eject droplets as small as a millionth of a millionth of a liter (picoliter = 10-12 liter). ADE technology is a very gentle process, and it can be used to transfer proteins, high molecular weight DNA and live cells without damage or loss of viability. This feature makes the technology suitable for a wide variety of applications including proteomics and cell-based assays."

Visualizing Sound: The opposite of sonification

Harry Bertoia

Created sculptures that create sound.

Amazon.com: Symphonies Of The Planets 1-5 NASA Voyager Recordings: Music

Undular Bore waves: resonanace sound and harmonics

I found this in my research of resonance and waves. I find it very interesting how waves and resonance manifest themselves in so many different ways. Instruments resonate, and the resulting harmonics develop rich sounds. In the video below, undular bore waves compress moisture into clouds that sweep across the sky. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge disintegrated under a 40 mile an hour wind. The Chladni phenomenon creates intricate patterns in sand from simple single octaves.

Those giant waves—"undular bore waves"—were photographed Oct. 3rd flowing across the skies of Des Moines, Iowa. (Credit: KCCI-TV Des Moines and Iowa Environmental Mesonet SchoolNet8 Webcam.)


As Beasley once observed : “If two independent systems, both having the same nature occurring frequency, are joined together in a harmonious phase, resonance occurs with the result that their maximum and minimum values are reached simultaneously, both systems vibrate in unison . Under these conditions, the resulting wave from the values created by the union of the two frequencies exceed that which either could produce independently. [1]
1. Beasley. 1978. Unknown source. From: http://sps.nus.edu.sg/~tanshenm/2171.pdf&ei=YTUeR5zBIYO0as_DuP4H&sig2=DPyKNNqHR7OR2NIG77v50Q&zx=-I_Kaexbuog&ct=w

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Quinn Norton - Body Hacking

Quinn Norton is a popular journalist who writes about hacking culture and intellectual property rights. Using Make's motto as impetus, "if you can't open it, don't own it." Norton had a magnet implanted into her finger. She could sense nearby EM fields with it.
According to Huffman, the magnet works by moving very slightly, or with a noticeable oscillation, in response to EM fields. This stimulates the somatosensory receptors in the fingertip, the same nerves that are responsible for perceiving pressure, temperature and pain. Huffman and other recipients found they could locate electric stovetops and motors, and pick out live electrical cables. Appliance cords in the United States give off a 60-Hz field, a sensation with which Huffman has become intimately familiar. "It is a light, rapid buzz," he says. [1]
I'm wondering if this isn't a way to work out some of the touch/tactile issues I'm working with? Magnets in gloves, on the skin or using speaker coils and drivers connecting directly to the skin?

There's also a large commecial body attempting to simulate touch. One example is over at: http://touchlab.mit.edu/news/AsiaTimes_TheInternetsghosttouch.htm

1 Norton, Quinn. Wired. A Sixth Sense for a Wired World. Visited 10-23-07. http://www.wired.com/gadgets/mods/news/2006/06/71087

Friday, October 19, 2007

Evolution and Wisdom of Crowds

This is an interesting article on the evolution theory and crowds.

Evolution and Wisdom of Crowds

Orson Scott Card or Social behavior
Groupthink and the Intellectual Elitehttp://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2006-10-08-1.html

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

James Turrell

I've always had a fascination for the work of James Turrell. his light sculptures show the work of an artist who really understands "light" as a medium.

Further Reading:

Monday, October 8, 2007

EMF Field detector, and firefly circuits

Sketch 1
One of my latest sketches is an EMF field detector. EM is everywhere. Electric power lines, motors, transformers, and the like. I think it would be really cool to experiment with the possibilities, especially of sonifying the output. I've been thinking a lot about resonances, and frequencies of everything lately.

The tuvan throat singers com to mind for some reason. The resonances they create in their throats of two different pitches at the same time are really incredible. You can feel it in your body, in your chest cavity. (Friends of Tuva and Scientific American.) It is said that the original throat singers were trying to emulate gurgling water and other sounds of nature. "Tuvan pastoral music is intimately connected to an ancient tradition of animism, the belief that natural objects and phenomena have souls or are inhabited by spirits." This is great stuff, when viewed through the viewfinder of modern capabilities.

Again with the tactile: "Feel it... in your chest." I think this is going to be a very important part of my final.

Also thinking about the maps class. I'm thinking I can do the same thing with the containers/environments I'm considering setting up. Filling them with water, then having speakers play sounds underneath, creating resonances. Water would be really cool, and having it gurgling and resonating to passersby - mapping out the animist nature of people as they pass by.

Sketch 2
I put together the infrared firefly oscillator circuit. After struggling with a poor version of the circuit, I finally found this one. This worked really well, if the IR emitter and IR detector are right next to each other. I think that there must be a way to amplify the IR. How else to remote controls and TV communicate across the room? I found an infrared remote control extender here, and an infrared signal tester on the same site. The signal tester shows the most promise as an amplifier. I'll see if I can't work the two into each other somehow.

EMF Detector
I found a really good schematic, and later even better instructions. Check out Circuit Exchange International for a really good EMF detector circuit. I was able to find everything just fine, but originally was having trouble figuring out where the actual probe was. Later I found this page, which explained that the 1mH coil was the detector. apparently. Wikipedia also explained that the detector coil is typically either single axis, or tri-axis. This refers to the three possible planes in space that it can be oriented. Between tweaking the probe, and experimenting with the the three axises, I have lots of interesting places to take this.

1 Scientific American.com. visited 10-08-07 http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00080AA2-BA32-1C73-9B81809EC588EF21&pageNumber=1&catID=2
2 Circuit Exchange International. http://www.zen22142.zen.co.uk/ Visited 10-08-07

Friday, October 5, 2007

Alan Rath, sensory substitution and Terry Pratchett

Alan Rath has been building interactive robots and video sculptures for at least 20 years. Many of his sculptures deal with surveillance and observation, although he takes a lighthearted approach to the subject. Many of his pieces appear to be watching the viewer and some have sensors that activate when a viewer comes near. "One by one the artworks come alive as I walk into the studio in the morning." [1]

A recent interview of Rath at Berkley made me realize how similar the concepts I have begun to research are to his ideas. [2] Rath calls the inspiration for his work, "images in the back of my eyeballs." He is touching on the characteristics between the senses and the conscious mind that interprets our senses, which comes up with ideas and intuitions, and make decisions based on our senses. He goes on to say, "We live more in language than in physical space," referring to the symbolism of words, the fact that we create simulacra of our world so that we can make simple decisions like eating breakfast. (Which is a daunting task when you start to think about everything that is involved from gathering, packaging and storing the food, to preparing it and storing it in the refrigerator and preparing it the morning of your breakfast. When you add the bio-mechanical movements of the arms, hands, and individual fingers, legs, feet, and toes that are required to perform each of these activities, its a wonder we are able to eat at all, let alone get out of bed in the morning.)

The human mind, ever vigilant in its pursuit of simplifying the universe around it, so that we can get up in the morning, manifests its most important evolutionary trait: the skillful categorization and quantification of the universe around it. Add a symbolic representation to each of these actions in a hierarchical of scale, and suddenly the dauntingly impossible becomes becomes possible think about. 'Open the fridge door' can be combined with 'move the hand so it grasps the egg,' into 'get an egg.' This in turn can be combined with 'turn on burner', and 'place pan on stove,' into 'cook eggs.' Language is the expression of the mind's desire to create symbols, so that it doesn't have to continuously think about everything.

Writer Terry Pratchett also uses the metaphor of the darkness behind the eyes in Thief of Time. In his novel, non-corporeal beings of non-human origin (which, incidentally have nearly limitless senses) try to occupy human bodies, they are suddenly struck with the simplicity of the five senses. Furthermore, they are absolutely confounded by the little voice, that continuously tries to interject itself into every thought.
“It is essential for humans to use the personal pronoun. It divides the universe into two parts. The darkness behind the eyes, where the little voice is, and everything else. It is…a horrible feeling. It is like…being questioned all the time.” [3]
When describing the world, we can only use our senses and inferences based on the senses. Using Plato's Allegory of the Cave, its very interesting to think that we are limited to our senses, and that because it's the only thing we know, it is the only way we can describe the world around us. [5] We use words (as symbols) to label something, like 'the big red car.' Visually, anyone without a sight disability can visualize the car, and have a very good idea what it looks like. Most everyone without an auditory disability knows what it sounds like. Most everyone knows what the smooth shiny painted surface of a car feels like.

But what is a car, that can't easily be described by the senses? (Perhaps a useful way to look at this question is what else does a car symbolize that can't easily be described be the senses?) What if we had a sense that saw heat changes as a vehicle moves through an area? What if we could see the CO2 expelled by a car while driving by? What if we could see the driver's bank account draining as he drives a large red suburban, guzzling gas? What if we could see the increases in happiness of a the children inside increase as they all go to an amusement park? Can these be considered "senses?"

Sensory substitution is intended to assist visually or hearing disabled people by using the remaining senses. In the case of sight, visual images are translated to touch. Tactile devices are placed either on the tongue since it is so sensitive or on the neck or back of the hand. A high enough resolution can actually provide people (or more accurately the brains of people) who used to see with enough information to actually understand what they are "seeing." Much of the research is focused on the blind, but there are studies using it for the deaf as well.

In subjects who lose a sense, the brain already 'knows' how to hear and understand sound, these devices simply retrain the brain to use a different sense (a transduction of senses.) But the brain actually ends up utilizing the already developed part of the brain after practice with the device. It is my understanding that the brain is very flexible, and can adapt very well, and very quickly. But is it really this fluid? what does this say about our senses? What if we grew up with different senses? Would the brain grow to simply adapt them if they were a part of evolution? Does it even matter? I'm beginning to think not. recently, I read about someone who is embedding magnets into the skin of a few willing participants. After a little practice, these individuals can learn to detect magnetic fields very easily. [4]

So what is this saying about our senses? Our senses are mutable. Consider this: Human senses are simply reacting to the energy of electromagnetic fields. Vision, for example, is a reaction to photons - pure energy - reflecting off of objects. Photons don't bounce off objects like billiard balls. Matter itself is mostly space. The distance between particles that make up atoms are so immense, that matter is really 90%+ nothing. If photons acted like billiard balls, they'd mostly just pass through everything. Vision would be useless, there would be nothing to see. [7]

Rather, they reflect like waves off of the fields created by the atoms in objects. [6] From a certain scientific point of view, nothing really exists as matter, and our senses are simply detecting energy fields. Smell reacts to combinations of fields that make up molecules. Touch detects the repelling force these fields exert on our skin. Hearing detects the motion - kinetic energy - of air particles, which are themselves comprised of energy. Our mind is doing an incredible thing, reconstructing all this information about complex fields around us, into a form that we are able to understand, describe, document, share and remember.

I don't suggest stepping in front of any trucks, thinking that a bit of mostly empty space won't hurt you. The energy contained in that empty space creates a strong enough field to scatter your body's fields in every direction. But I do think we should consider what it means if everything is made of energy. How 'real' are objects? We never really do touch anything - the fields surrounding the atoms in abjects never let us actually touch them. We never really actually see anything - just the reflection of photons off of objects. All we are doing is creating our interpretation of the world around us in our mind from the stimulus that our senses detect. In a way, everything is just in our heads.

1 Bing, Alison. "Alan Rath: Meta Mechanics." Sculpture (Washington, D.C.) v. 25 no. 7 (September 2006) p. 34-9
2 Alan Rath, Interview at Berkley. http://bampfa.berkeley.edu/media/rath.mp4 Viewed 09-26-07.
3 The little voice might be described as the conscience, or possibly the ego. We all have it. For those of you who insist you are without either one, I may lose you here, but see if you can keep up. Pratchett, Terry.
Thief of Time.
4 Body Hacking. Make Magazine? I'll need to try to find this. For now: http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2007/04/body_hacking_if_you_cant.html
5 For a quick synopsis, see: Wikipedia.
Allegory of the Cave. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_cave. Visited 10-04-07
6 Fermilab.
All About Light. http://www.fnal.gov/pub/inquiring/more/light/
7 The gold foil experiment showed that the atom was comprised of mostly empty space with a concentrated positive center. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_theory Visited 10-07-07

Also see:
Alan Rath's website
Make Magazine