The Signature of a Sunrise

Syncing data: A time-lapse recording of the sunrise

Every sunrise and sunset, the sun leaves a unique signature on the Ionosphere. I have been waking predawn for the past month to set up a time lapse recording of the sunrise (using a DSLR camera) to coincide with the VLF monitor data. I’m hoping to get the hang of this somewhat complicated setup before the next partly cloudy morning. The clear skies make for a pretty boring sunrise, as you can see in the time lapse footage above.

Audio Reactive Processing Sketch

Audio reactive animation using Processing’s minim library

This is one of my experiments using Processing’s minim library to analyze audio. The method employs a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT), allowing for real time visualization of frequency. In this sketch, I played around with frequency bins and intensity thresholds.

The song is “Aspectacle” by Can. I chose this song both because I like it (and could handle listening to it repeatedly) and upon first hearing it, I imagined a psychedelic audio reactive animation. I love doing work like this, as it hits all of the math, physics, music, and visual bells in my brain.

Thesis Book 2012

My submission to ITP’s Thesis Book

Listening to the Sun

Realtime scientific data acquisition and visualization for makers, artists, citizen scientists, and other curious types via an exploration of space from Earth.

Listening to the Sun is an experiment in making real science accessible to curious types through affordable DIY technologies. By repurposing easy to find and often freely discarded consumer electronics and other materials, it is possible to create tools that enable the exploration of our atmosphere and outer space without ever leaving Earth. Coupling these tools with computers, open source software, and hardware, allows for real time data acquisition and visualization.

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Sparkfun’s 9 DOF Razor-IMU


Sparkfun’s 9 Degrees of Freedom (Razor IMU) is essentially a breakout board for a small microcontroller and three separate MEMS sensors: a 3-axis accelerometer, a 3-axis gyroscope, and a 3-axis magnetic sensor. While the Razor’s microcontroller ships with sample firmware that demos the output of the three sensors, the full power of the Razor is realized by uploading firmware that utilize the device as a realtime 3D orientation sensor. The Razor’s onboard microcontroller can be programmed directly by an AVR programmer or by a computer-serial connection via a pre-programmed Arduino bootloader.

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3D Worlds Final: Audio Reactive Projection Mapping

Overcoming some hurdles with VDMX5 and Maya on my second project proved to be quite challenging. I hope to continue learning these tools and pick up Quartz Composer, 123d Catch, Syphon, AfterEffects, and OpenNI/NITE. For my final project, I wanted to create an audio responsive projection mapping in my livingroom (the only place I could conceivably take over for a week) with generative geometry and some AfterEffects animations inspired by the unusual works of Paul Loffely.

I hope to finish up weaving together layered AfterEffects animations in scenes with VDMX5, dealing with multiple Syphon servers, adding the additional surfaces I’ve modeled (and making them transparent), adding the dreamer on the couch with the Kinect, incorporating the spatial shifts in Unity3D to make the projection interesting….

Below are some low res videos (taken on my iphone) and pictures:


Setup for the 123D Catch modeling:

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The Cosmic Harp

For my final project for Mechanisms and Things that Move and Design Frontiers in Biology and Materiality, I would like to create a Cosmic Harp, as instrument that detects cosmic events and transforms them into music in real time.

High energy cosmic rays originating from the depths of outerspace bombard our planet’s atmosphere, producing particles that cascade to earth at relativistic speeds. One of the most abundant and energetic of such secondary cosmic particles is the muon.  Muons are unstable particles with lifetimes that should be too short to allow them to make it from the upper atmosphere to the Earth’s surface before decay.

However, because a muon originating from a high energy cosmic event travels at a speed approaching that of light as it descends to Earth, the effects of special relativity come into play.

From the viewpoint of the Earth, because of the muon’s speed: time “dialates”, the lifetime of the muon is extended, and the muon is able to reach the surface of the Earth. In fact, about 10,000 muons per a square meter, cascade to Earth every minute.

Muon Detectors

There are many ways to detect muons: cloud chambers, scintillators,… To the left is the muon detector (spectrometer) used to detect the muons created by the high energy proton annihilation for ATLAS at the LHC.

For my Design Frontiers in Biology and Materiality midterm, I investigated ways to make a, comparably, affordable muon detector. The muon detection I am most familiar with, uses a plastic scintillator. When a high energy particle hits the “scintillating” material, light is emitted.  A photomultiplier tube, utilizing the photoelectric effect, detects the photon and transmits a signal. To eliminate noise, two scintillator setups are used and the event is only recorded if there is a simultaneous hit.

Making a scintillator set up affordable requires either scrounging physics department junk or some freakishly good luck on ebay to acquire the most expensive parts: the appropriate and functioning photomultiplier tubes and their bases.  Even if these parts were readily available, the use of such a detector to create a varying or compelling sound output (other than single note percussion) is limited. And, creating more than one of such a set up, would be extraordinarily expensive.

I scratched the scintillator idea and investigated other muon detecting contraptions and have (at least temporarily) decided to use Geiger tubes as they are cheap and easy to acquire. In a Geiger Tube, there is a strong electric field created by a voltage difference between two electrodes on either side of the tube.  The tube is filled with gas that is ionized when a radioactive particle passes through. The result is a pulse that can be detected with monitoring equipment. As in the case of the scintillator set up, in order to make sure the radioactive particle detected is a muon, two Geiger tubes are stacked vertically and a count is only made if there is a coincidence.

Simple One-Stringed “Harp” Mechanism (first iteration)

With the limited amount of time before final presentation time, I thought I’d focus first on completing a simplified version of this concept: connecting a single detector to a single string and testing it’s rate on the ITP floor.

Animation: Schroedinger’s Cat

Seeing as it was my team’s time to present for Red’s Applications class, I decided to work by myself on this project, as I knew that my schedule would be wacky. I chose to animate Erwin Schroedinger’s famous thought experiment involving a cat and a steel box. I wanted to use Schroedinger’s actual words and wrote a brief introduction to lead up to it. Here is a translation (by Joseph M. Jauch) of the cat paradox published in 1935 (E. Schroedinger, Naturwiss. 48, 52)

A cat is placed in a steel chamber, together with the following hellish contraption…in a Geiger counter there is a tiny amount of radioactive substance, so tiny that *maybe* within an hour of one of the atoms decays, but equally probably none of them decays. If one decays then the counter triggers and via a relay activates a little hammer which breaks a container of cyanide.
If one has left this entire system for an hour, then one would say the cat is living if no atom has decayed. The first decay would have poisoned it. The wave function of the entire system would express this by containing equal parts of the living and dead cat.

This was my first time working with After Effects and even with a generous one-on-one tutoring session from Marianne, it took me a while to learn how to navigate the software. I also struggled with finding images to use, as I was hesitant to draw anything of my own. If I had more time, I would probably draw some of the elements, redo the voice over, make the clock hands move with time, have the cyanide bottle break, and add some more content to the beginning of the piece.

Video Project: Fratres

For this project, I worked with Lynn, Suvarchala, and Naliaka.  We all entered this project with very different ideas and it took some rehashing before we decided to create something that would express four unique experiences of four very different women with one common thread.  We borrowed a baby, 2 men, took over the Physical Computing bathroom and a playground, and spent eons filming, lighting, and laughing. We chose to make it a silent piece and used one of my favorite pieces, “Fratres” by Arvo Part, as the soundtrack.  It’s a bit…dramatic…but, we had a blast working together.

Fratres from Lynn Burke on Vimeo.

The Secret of ITP

Inspired by furry animals and frantic emails about misplaced chargers, this comic tells the story of what actually happens late night on the floor and inside the walls of ITP. Made with Lynn Burke.