Todd's blog

Duncan Interviewed on WUNC

Farfetched Web1Duncan was interviewed on Frank Stasio’s The State of Things today, talking about subtle energy, signals from rocks and plants, and the Purr Generator. Duncan is in Raleigh NC, for the opening of “Farfetched: Mad Science, Fringe Architecture and Visionary Engineering” at the Gregg Museum.

From the show notes:

In the age of constant digital stimulus, it can be hard to truly listen to all that’s around you. Duncan Laurie will tell you that listening a little closer might bring you happiness or healing. Duncan has found ways to tap into the sonic energy of organic materials, like plants and rock.

Several of his pieces, including the joy-inducing Purr Generator, are currently on display at the Gregg Museum of Art and Design at North Carolina State University. They are part of the exhibit “Farfetched: Mad Science, Fringe Architecture and Visionary Engineering.” Duncan Laurie is an artist, researcher and author of “The Secret Art: A Brief History of Radionics Technology for the Creative Individual” (Anomalist Books/2009), and he joins host Frank Stasio in the studio.

And the exhibit notes:

The Gregg Museum’s spring 2013 exhibition Farfetched: Mad Science, Fringe Architecture and Visionary Engineering takes as its basic point of departure British mathematician Alfred North Whitehead’s famous quip that, “Every really new idea looks crazy at first.” The exhibition will feature objects that question (and push) the boundaries of what is considered “normal” in art and technology.

For example, Frank Lloyd Wright was considered a great architect, and Norman Bel Geddes was recognized as a great designer, but neither Wright’s visionary mile high city (The Illinois), nor Geddes’s proposed flying wing (Air Liner Number 4) ever proved feasible (no wonder; the air liner would have had nine decks and incorporated areas for deck-games, an orchestra, a gymnasium, a solarium and a machine shop for in-flight repairs).

Meanwhile, an uneducated Hispanic handyman named Simon Rodia, who was labeled insane, really did manage to build the famous Watts Towers in Los Angeles—singlehandedly and so sturdily that the towers couldn’t be torn down (city engineers tried). Some of the greatest scientists, architects, and engineers who ever lived—Galileo, Newton, Tesla, Marconi, the Wright brothers—were accused of insanity at one time or another during their careers.

Thinking big (or “thinking outside the box”) in both art and science means taking risks, and even risking failure. To make this point, Farfetched will include works by both mainstream and “outsider” artists and scientists, ranging from Perpetual Motion Machines to Orgone Generators.

Bio-Sensing Art in the 1970s

Brainwave and plant music from The Secret Life of Plants, 1976.
[ Brainwave and plant music from The Secret Life of Plants, 1976. ]

Artist and eco-systems designer Richard Lowenberg discusses his pioneering efforts in bio-sensing art and his proposition for a slow-tech movement in an interview at Data Garden.

Mr. Lowenberg worked with Woody and Steina Vasulka at their “Kitchen” space in New York, devising EEG biofeedback systems to integrate with audio/video synthesizers. By the mid-70s’ he had moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to collaborate with scientists at NASA Ames Research Center. It was during that time he worked on a number of sequences for the The Secret Life of Plants film.

Pulsu(m) Plantae

Imagen PulsumPlantae

My acquaintance Leslie Garcia, from Tijuana Mexico, has been working on a plant sonification project analogous to those here at Dragonline Studios.

Develop self-sustaining sound devices, designed as hybrid systems, from the integration of a living organism (plant) and an interface address (biosensors) to create a network-based motif in coded language sound frequencies. Project in process

Her work was recently exhibited and a large amount of documentation is up on the site for the Pulsu(m) Plantae project, original in Español, English translation by Google Translate.

Electricity from trees

Researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), in Brisbane, Australia have published findings from a study showing ion concentrations in heavily wooded areas to be twice that of grassy areas. The increased ion counts are believed to be caused by the trees transporting watersoluble radon from ground water into the atmosphere as they transpire. The research paper is available from Environmental Science & Technology.

Abstract
The role of ions in the production of atmospheric particles has gained wide interest due to their profound impact on climate. Away from anthropogenic sources, molecules are ionized by alpha radiation from radon exhaled from the ground and cosmic gamma radiation from space. These molecular ions quickly form into ‘cluster ions’, typically smaller than about 1.5 nm. Using our measurements and the published literature, we present evidence to show that cluster ion concentrations in forest areas are consistently higher than outside. Since alpha radiation cannot penetrate more than a few centimetres of soil, radon present deep in the ground cannot directly contribute to the measured cluster ion concentrations. We propose an additional mechanism whereby radon, which is water soluble, is brought up by trees and plants through the uptake of groundwater and released into the atmosphere by transpiration. We estimate that, in a forest comprising eucalyptus trees spaced 4m apart, approximately 28% of the radon in the air may be released by transpiration. Considering that 24% of the earth’s land area is still covered in forests; these findings have potentially important implications for atmospheric aerosol formation and climate.

( Via PhysOrg )

Leafsnap

Researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution have joined forces to develop a series of electronic field guides. Their first effort, Leafsnap, uses visual recognition algorithms to identify trees via photos of their leaves. Their species list is currently limited to trees found in the New York City and Washington D.C. areas, but will soon grow to cover the continental United States. Leafsnap is available as a free iPhone app at the iTunes App Store. ( Via Kottke and Garden Design )