The Electromagnetic Fountain

Archive for March 2008

MIT’s Bellagio Fountain

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Here is a link to a MIT musical fountain project, La Fontaine Du Campus Est, by Zack Anderson and friends.

….. La Fontaine Du Campus Est (The Fountain of East Campus) is a computer-controlled, servo-actuated, LED and halogen-lit, sump-pump powered water fountain. It features five streams of water that can each be individually controlled (on/off) as well as pivoted (90 degrees of freedom). Each stream of water is lit by a halogen light. The perimeter of the fountain has RGB triplets that can perform various animations. The fountain and water are also illuminated by eight Luxeon LEDs. The entire system is controlled by a PC that sequences through a choreographed file called a ShowFile. Three circuit boards act as an interface between the fountain and the computer: a valve control board, an LED control board, and a servo control board. All but the last were custom built for La Fontaine Du Campus Est…..

The site gives a great description of how he and his team built it, including video documentation of some of the processes and techniques, as well as the fountain in action. All schematics and source codes are also available for download. Lovely!

Not exactly how I imagine the Electromagnetic Fountain, but the spirit is definitely there. I just can’t help embedding the fountain in action:


Written by ajsteggell

March 25, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Antenna aesthetics on Wendover Peak

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Here’s 3 more photos for my antenna aesthetics collection: snapshots from the Wendover Peak webcam. (Wendover is cut in two by the Utah/Nevada State lines. I’ll be going there shortly for the production of Motherboard’s Desert Walker project, and found the webcam while checking out links to the area. Look forward to doing some EM sniffing there too.)

WP antennas

WP antenna detail 2

WP antenna detail

Written by ajsteggell

March 25, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Amplitude modulation explained

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Here’s a tutorial from Radioteacher explaining Amplitude Modulation:

Written by ajsteggell

March 23, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Frequency modulation explained

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Here’s a tutorial video by Radioteacher explaining Frequency Modulation:

Written by ajsteggell

March 23, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Link: Mast victims

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Mast Victims is website dedicated to raising awarenss about the potential harmful effects of cellphone masts.

(The link was suggested to me by Jon Refsdal Moe during a conversation at Black Box Theatre after watching Verk’s version of The Answering Machine by Finn Iunker in which I have been working with video. Currently a research fellow at the faculty of Theater Science of Oslo University, he also works as a theatre and visual arts critic.)

Sound analysis

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I have been using Aleksander Refsum Jensenius’s max/msp sound analysis software to analyze digital and analogue signals that I have recorded with my detectors. When I see the sound rendered from different perspectives – loudness (spectral energy), brightness (spectral centroid), noisiness (spectral flatness), sonogram, pitch (estimated), onsets and as musical notation – in this way, I get to know more about the character of each of the various field recordings. The screenshot below is one moment of detecting the electromagnetic activity when I make a call on my mobile phone.


From this exercise I hope to glean some ideas about how to treat the data that will come in from the fountain’s detectors, and how this will control the various water valves of the fountain.

The digital signals are on-off and squirty – like premature ejaculations, while the anaolg signals are continuous and surgey and can be more kind of slowly orgasmic. What I am currently thinking of is passing each peak of the digital signals sequential to the small valves close to the circumference of the fountain bowl. As the peaks happen so fast, I figure that this is the best way of signal distribution – it allows for time for the mechanics of the each of the valves to respond before getting new input. Right now it seems like either the pitch or noisiness signal analysis methods would be the most useful way of controlling the valves. Pitch/peak opens a valve and sends a water jet into the air, the height controlled by its value, and then the valve closes fast to get a “drop”.

If you want to try this out, download the sound of my mobile (unedited from dv cassette/7.89mb) and then open/run it in Aleksander’s sound analysis patch. There’s a osx stand alone version, (1.6mb), so you don’t need to have max/msp installed on your mac.

Written by ajsteggell

March 17, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Sniffer Sounds

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From 11-12 March I’ll be leading a workshop for young people at the Amandus Film Festival in Lillehammer, Norway. Small groups, equipped with detectors and mini-dv cam-corders will explore electromagnetic Lillehammer, recording the sound of the invisible city directly on to tape as an alternative “concrete” sound for film. We’ll then look at the various recordings, discuss them a bit, and pick out interesting parts of the recordings. These will be shown on the last evening, together with the results of Ivar Smedstad‘s video group and will be loaded up to the Sniffer Sounds blog.

Written by ajsteggell

March 7, 2008 at 3:29 pm