For our media controller, our group (Kevin Bleich, Natalie Be’er, Blythe Sheldon, and myself) created a device which allows a user, via 3 FRSs, to control an audio output. This audio output is delivered via a 10″ speaker which serves as a vessel for a non-Newtonian fluid of the user’s choice. As the user manipulates the audio output, ie changes the resulting sound waves, the sound is “visualized” in the non-Newtonian fluid.
A fluid is said to be non-Newtonian if its viscosity changes with force. A popular non-Newtonian fluid is a simple mixture of cornstarch and water. If an external force is applied to this mixture, which is what happens when one’s hand reaches into a container of cornstarch and water, the atoms of the non-Newtonian fluid rearrange themselves and the mixture becomes dense (its viscosity increases), acting more like a solid than a liquid. Just as one’s hand can apply an external force, so can a sound wave. As the sound waves propagate through the non-Newtonian fluid, the mixture displays the properties of both a solid and a liquid and small, finger-like protrusions emerge.
The media (non-Newtonian fluid) controller consists of an Auduino (an Arduino microcontroller-based sound synthesizer) reading the analog signal of 3 force sensitive resistors, hooked up to an amp and a 10″ speaker, all housed in a wine box. A black paper plate is placed upon the speaker and serves as the non-Newtonian fluid dance floor.
The Process and Inspiration:
In the brain-storming stages of our project, Kevin suggested cymatics (see below) and shared a link to a Make magazine blog entry which showed the manipulation of a corn starch mixture with sound. Natalie, Blythe, and I were immediately captivated and so our explorations began. Kevin created an Audiono (initially using the potentiometers described in the schematics) and found the perfect speaker (neither my tiny 8 Ohm speaker or my old college subwoofer packed enough punch or provided a suitable surface) and amp combo. At this stage, we were ready to experiment with varying sound frequencies and substances. The first substance tested was a gel-like children’s slime toy.
As expected, the lower frequencies (less frequency = greater force) created larger structures in the gel-like substance. While the patterns formed in the gel were interesting, they were not the finger-like protrusions revealed in the Make magazine video. In order to create these structures, we switched to a cornstarch and water mixture.
Cymatics is a term coined by physician and natural scientist Hans Jenny to describe the study of wave-propagation in matter.
****Photos and video of the media controller provided by the lovely and talented Natalie Be’er****