Physical Computing Final Project Proposal: Telekinetic Magnetic Sculpting

For my PComp final, I plan to work with Ferrofluid. Ferrofluid is a liquid suspension of iron nanoparticles that are small enough to remain suspended by Brownian motion (meaning, the iron does not separate easily from the suspension liquid).  This liquid becomes magnetized  in the presence of a magnetic field.  The effect is beautiful and there are many ferrofluid enthusiasts and artists who have documented their creations online.  Below is a video of some of the works of Sachiko Kodama:

Most of the pieces that I saw online appear to utilize the physical rotation of a permanent magnet to create a varying magnetic field.  However, there are other ways of creating a varying magnetic field.  A simple electromagnet can be made by running a current through a coiled wire. By changing the voltage, the magnetic field is altered. In Tesla’s famous Egg of Columbus experiment (created to show the world that AC was not dangerous) a metal egg magically spins in the rotating magnetic field created by a stator (containing four coils) powered by AC current.  Here is a video of a setup of the experiment:

This device below, created by a high school physics teacher, allows the viewer to mechanically alter the positions of various magnets to alter a magnetic field, and hence the resulting shape of a Ferrofluid sculpture:

I would like to create a device which would allow a user to control the magnetic field and hence the shape of a sculpture based upon their input, and I would like that input to be one of the least tactile of all human inputs: the theta wave output of the brain.

While there are quite a few interesting biographies and documentaries on his fascinating (and tragic) life, this short Funny or Die piece (part of their Drunken History series) sums up some key aspects of the life and trials and tribulations of Nikola Tesla quite succinctly (warning: this biography contains vomit)

Drunk History vol. 6 w/ John C. Reilly & Crispin Glover from John C Reilly