A Mysterious Ravine

December 2, 2010

A static canary was left in Ford Park to see what invisible and diffuse bodies were passing through it over a 24 hour period (see invisible.folly.co.uk/ford-park/). After 24 hours in the park, here’s the data it gathered on general fluctuations in airquality:

Mostly there are only minor fluctuations, apart from the huge ravine that occurs later in the plot. As the static canary is only a simple device it doesn’t log the time that values are written to its SD card. To figure out the time at which this dip appeared I wrote a small python script:

file = open("~/Documents/FLI/Static_Plots/Ford_Park_Hedge/LOG00129.txt")
hour = 16
day = 1
for line in file:
	if line == 'n':
	if i%60 == 0:
		hour += 1
		if hour%24 == 0:
			day +=1
	print str(day)+"-"+str(hour%24)+"-"+str(i%60)+"t"+str(line),

hour = 16 because I turned the device on at roughly 16:00 on Tuesday this week. The canary records one value every minute so the rest of the script uses this fact to figure out the approximate time of each plot:

(day-hour-minute value)

2-10-57	414
2-10-58	414
2-10-59	414
2-11-0	413
2-11-1	413
2-11-2	413
2-11-3	412
2-11-4	412
2-11-5	411
2-11-6	410
2-11-7	410
2-11-8	409
2-11-9	408

the output from this shows the dip happening around 11am on Wednesday 1st December. The cause is presently unknown.

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The Vitality of Smog

December 1, 2010


I find the title of this article interesting as smog is normally considered amongst the demonic airs, but here it receives a certain vital association with the potential origin of life.

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Ford Park

November 30, 2010

After a spot of litter collecting with the volunteers at Ford Park this morning, we decided on a couple of good locations for the static canaries (the name given to the sniffers by Lanternhouse’s Programme Director Claire Benbow). This particular version of the device is designed to be left for long periods in one place, rather than carried during walks, so simply records fluctuations in air quality without the gps data. Recording started at approximately 16:00 today (Tuesday 30th November); I’ll return to collect the canary on Thursday morning to see what data has been gathered. As the weather has become a little more harsh in recent days, a hi-tech anti-snow device was required:

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Twin Peaks

November 25, 2010

For getting quick results from the data gathered on walks over the hills of Ulverston I’ve been using gnuplot for some basic visualisations. Once the plots are generated they can be quickly and easily arranged for cross reference using imagemagick. Commands below.

Gnuplot commands for the above:

set terminal png
set output 'layer1.png'
unset tics
unset border
set dgrid3d
splot '25-11-2010@20.00.20.txt' u 2:3:4 lc rgb "green" w l
set output 'layer2.png'
splot '25-11-2010@20.00.20.txt' u 2:3:5 lc rgb "blue" w l
set output 'layer3.png'
splot '25-11-2010@20.00.20.txt' u 2:3:($5-$4) lc rgb "magenta" w l

ImageMagick command to combine into a single file, organized vertically:

convert layer1.png layer2.png layer3.png -append layers.png
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November 24, 2010

This afternoon was spent working on further power saving measures and then another test run up the hoad and down through Ulverston town centre. After getting back to Lanternhouse and thawing my icy fists, I thought it might be nice to try out some methods of combining the elevation data with the data gathered from the various gas sensors being used on these walks. The three images above are i) latitude, longitude, elevation ii) latitude, longitude, ozone intensity iii) latitude, longitude, elevation – ozone intensity.

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November 20, 2010

Above is the terrain data from today’s test walk, just latitude, longitude and elevation in gnuplot’s beautiful default colour scheme. The sniffer has been fixed and bottled up.

It’s interesting that where yesterdays walk plotted general air quality against landscape and came up with something not too disimilar from that which is visible (see: http://invisible.folly.co.uk/hoad-plots/) plotting ozone concentrations (z) against latitude and longitude (x,y) produces a dramatically different image of the landscape. In the above image the terrain data (green) and a plot of latitude, longitude and ozone concentrations (purple) are overlayed to stress this difference. Below are some further maps of the route taken today and images from a few notable locations.

Nearby, someone was building a house.

Slimy and decaying seating, found just beyond the border of Ulverston.

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Hoad Plots

November 19, 2010

After spending yesterday evening working on a low power version of the sniffers, the sun finally shone on Ulverston today, so I did a quick test run up to the hoad monument which towers above the town. The images above only really show half a plot as I broke the power cable at the top, hopefully tomorrow will be equally as nice a day and I can do some more thorough tests. The data for these images was gathered during the 35 minutes it took to walk from Lanternhouse to the top of Hoad Hill. The first shows the gps coordinates and elevation, the second shows airquality against latitude and longitude, the third shows the sniffer shortly before I broke it, and the fourth shows the route taken.
(Thanks to Martin Howse for the introduction to gnuplot).

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Vital Compositions and Monistic Contractions

November 19, 2010

There have been a lot of ideas bouncing around since starting this project, a few of them are briefly discussed below and will hopefully be elaborated upon in the near future. These points are mostly based upon the idea of air and how it has been imagined since antiquity.

The desire to work with airs apart from their sonorous renderings in the ear (which describes the state of vibrational matters I normally choose to work with) was driven by an interest in thinking about sound beyond the ear, the nature of sounds not heard. Removed from what is normally thought as their constitutive organ (according to which a movement of the air is only called sound insofar as someone hears it) these inaudible ‘sonorities’, or more simply vibrations, are constituted purely according to that which resists of exceeds the possibility of perception, existing as that which sound is in-itself when there is no one around to hear it. This has taken me to the elements making up these disturbed bodies of air that are named sound upon setting the ear in motion, the minuscule elements that make up the medium through which we most commonly hear. The work I’m undertaking as part of Invisible Cartographies is a set of preliminary experiments in engaging with some of the constituent elements of the airs through which we hear that persist beyond acts of audition, something which has lead towards basic experiments with mapping the components of atmospheric chemistry. The processes described by chemistry draw attention towards a weirdly vitalistic creativity, foregrounding the interactions, interrelations and contingencies of diverse bodies, distinct if a little fuzzy round the edges. The vitality ascribed to airs or gaseous bodies is highlighted by the historian Alain Corbin in his fabulous book The Foul and The Fragrant when he states that, during the late eighteenth century, “to study airs was study the mechanisms of life” (16). Air, while linked to life forces through the vitalistic assertion of an equilibrium between airs and organisms (human, animal, plant … ) is also described by Corbin as “the laboratory of decompositions”, therefore linking it to a process more readily linked to decay and death through the dissolution of bodies into the realm of the imperceptible. Airs have been variously thought to account for both the constitution and dissolution of bodies throughout history, and so this “laboratory of decompositions” attests to a two way motion as the decomposition of one body feeds into the composition of another, establishing a dynamic equilibrium between bodies, whether these be bodies of water, air or animal bodies. Composition is then thought as an ambiguous process enfolding decomposition within its operations, operations that are negative from the perspective of the integrity of the individual undergoing decay, yet positive from the perspective of the infinite interactions that each constituent element or particle enters into within the complex interactions of airborne compositions. Accounting for its contingencies and interactions, a body of air is perhaps best thought of as a particular continuum, being comprised of elementary particles that are shared or passed between individuals in varying degrees of composition and decomposition.

In addition to this weird vitalism that thinks of air as an interactive field of (de)compositions, I’d like to highlight a more fundamental theory of airs that extends back in time around 2500 years, that serves as a link between airs and the constitutive movements of sound, a theory that states that the movements comprising sounds also comprise rocks and earth.

Apart from chemical and particular interactions, there is a productivity to the contractions and rarefactions of the air which allows for its rendering as sound in the ear or as a touch on the skin. The contractions and rarefactions or disturbances of the air productive of what we might call sound objects or audible events were, for Anaximenes (585 – 528 BC), the same disturbances or vibrations that produced stones and earth. Anaximenes’s position on the creative contractions of air is summarised by Theophrastus (371 – 287 BC):

Anaximenes, son of Eurystratus, of Miletus, was an associate of Anaximander who says, like him, that the underlying nature is single and boundless, but not indeterminate as he says, calling it air. It differs in essence in accordance with its rarity or density. When it is thinned it becomes fire, while when it is condensed it becomes wind, then cloud, when still more condensed it becomes water, then earth, then stones. Everything else comes from these. And he too makes motion everlasting, as a result of which change occurs.

I keep this last line in the quote as it is often the movements of diffuse spatialities or airborne bodies that bring about the vitality ascribed to them, as sound or fresh air are often described as bringing a space “to life” by virtue of the movement they instil in what is otherwise perceived to be static, dormant or dead.

The above diagram was drawn up to express units of existence, whether rocks, trees or humans, as contractions of a kind of mist or cloud of particles, a confused material substrate from which identifiable forms emerge. It is in this sense that I find a link between these thoughts on air and the noises I normally work with: air and noise find a certain relation in that both constitute a background to existence, comprising that which slips most easily into imperceptibility through fluctuations in sensory thresholds, while remaining the particular objects of a subliminal influence. The confused bodies of air and noise constitute backgrounds which through their contractions produce the figures appearing to the fore.

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Mapping Miasma

November 19, 2010

Above is Hector Gavin’s mapping of The Disease Mist Overhanging Bethnal Green in the Year 1847, depicting the harmful miasmas which cloaked this particular district of London in a gaseous body of subtle and despicable influence, here depicted in darkness. Further details on Gavin’s project of sanitary reformation and the cartography of disease can be found at the Victorian London site. There is an obvious link between Gavin’s cloud and class that deserves attention regarding the production of a historical and particular territoriality, but this will have to wait for another time. More immediately important for the present project is that this cloud was identified at a time when airborne pollutants were more readily identified within the thresholds of perception, being seen as smog, mists or dust, or detectable as a foul stench. Where the clouds I’m working on mapping as part of this project pose a problem (ecologically, biologically … ) it is one of a more insidious nature insofar as they remain otherwise imperceptible yet nonetheless real.

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November 17, 2010

For the Invisible Cartographies project I’m making two types of devices that gather data on atmospheric chemistry in specific locations: one is a mobile device that relays the information it gathers to a mobile phone (running an Android application I’ve been working on) via bluetooth where it is tagged with GPS data and stored on the phone’s internal SD card for later use, the other is a static device that will be placed in a location and left for extended periods of time.

Yesterday we presented the Invisible Cartographies project to the public for the first time. As part of this presentation Oyunga put together a promotional pack containing a miniature knitting kit and jar of air. It turns out that the jars are the perfect size for the static devices:

This evening I’ll be trying to find a suitable location to hide this in Ulverston, as long as it isn’t stolen I’ll put a quick plot up once I’ve retrieved it.

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