The Electromagnetic Fountain

Archive for the ‘6 Tech: examples’ Category

Day 4 at Frank’s place

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Fantastic sunny day again. I arrived at the workshop to find the fountain on a fork lift truck, with Marius working on electric cables:

Fork lift truck Checking it out

The water jet nozzles and lights are now in place and almost wired up. Some deatials:

Detail 2 Detail 3

L: The top hole is for water control (it rains a lot in Stavanger where the EMF will be standing in November) so any water over this level runs out of the bowl. Simple, but effective.
R: The rgb light fixtures allow them to be adjusted by height, angle and rotation. Lovely!

Bottom view Detail

L: The bottom view of the fountain showing the water tubes running from the pumps/solenoid valve chamber, through the mid hexagon chamber and up through holes to the jet fixtures.
R: I haven’t noticed the parabola logo before.

Fork lifting Nozzles and lights

The fountain is moved back inside Frank’s workshop so that Marius can continue wiring.

Working outside Working outside

I set up a table in the sun to test the sniffers. Though I don’t manage to get through all combinations of detectors and antenna, I do manage the following:

VLF box with large coil antenna: no response!
VLF box with small sensitive coil antenna: lovely, rich sounds, from very deep tones, to textural rushes and wooshes and clear tones when close up to wireless devices.

8318 box – 2-11 GHZ with small board antenna:
clear pulsing signals, high tones
8318 box – 2-11 GHZ with large board antenna: clear signals, beats and pulses, lower tones

8318 box – 900 – 300mhz with small board antenna: very loud signals, melodious at times, lots of variation in sounds when the antenna is moved around
8318 box – 900 – 300mhz with medium board antenna: as above, but very raw and tough, heavy rockish and black metalish sounds. Fab sounds when a guy used a mobile phone about 6m away.

Question: How to protect the antennas from the elements and how to make them robust enough to stand outside, in public space for 2 weeks?

So, the wiring is not quite finished, and we’re still waiting for the relay box. Frank still needs to put the doors on the base chambers – and all this really has to be done before we can do a test.

From the sniffer tests I did today, I really have to insist on spending time to decide how to fix the antennas on the fountain. I really need to be able to adjust them, rather than them being fixed in a static position. I am going to push forward to try and get them installed in steel goose neck tubes (or an alternative), so that the public can move them too.

Had hoped to set the LAN box channels today, but it was just not possible. Tommorrow’s another day!

Written by ajsteggell

October 9, 2008 at 11:39 pm

Day 3 at Frank’s place

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The lovely weather has broken. It’s damp and dreary here in Skien today. What a pity.

Arrived at Frank’s workshop to find the mechanical installation of the EM Fountain almost complete. The base shown here is now the right way up.


Frank and Atle place the bowl on top of it.

Lifting the bowl Bowl in place

Atle and I go to shop for needed parts, while Frank and Marius continue to work. The sniffers have arrived from Martin in Berlin. Four very sweet and mystical silver boxes, all carefully labeled:

4 sniffers

The VLF (very low frequency) sniffer has two alternative coil antennas. One is shown here:

Coil antenna

The other 3 sniffers have 2 alternative board antennas:

Board antennas

I go back to my hotel (functions as office/studio) to check them out but find that the power adapters are not included in the package from Martin. The shops are closed, so I’ll have to wait till tomorrow to test them. (Wish I’d noticed this earlier.) One thing that is apparent is that it is going to be a real challenge to find out how, and where to mount these on the fountain, and how to protect them from the elements …….

The electrical installation should be complete (or as least as much as it can be before the dmx switch box arrives), so I hope to start testing everything with Marius tomorrow. Hopefully there’s time to get adapters for the sniffers too.

Patching with Mattias

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Yesterday I brainstormed my ideas for controlling the EMFountian with Mattias, an MA student at the Academy of Fine Art in Bergen, Norway. The aim of the session was to make a plan for developing a simple control system for the fountain that can be developed over time. We ruminated together over using parts of existing max/msp/jitter patches which we have each developed for 2 different projects that used similar/related soft- and hardware elements. I put my patch for the Emotion Organ (made with the help of, amongst others, Piotr Pajchel) on the table, and Mattias brought out a patch he made for When You Hunger Number One, a sound/light installation by Asbjørn Hollerud.

This is what we ended up with.

1. Start by sending the sound from each sniffer through fiddle~ objects
(text taken from documentation file):

“The fiddle~ object estimates the pitch and amplitude of an incoming sound, both continuously and as a streem of discrete \”note\” events. Fiddle~ optionally outputs a list of detected sinusoidal peaks used to make the pitch determination. Fiddle~ is described theoretically in the 1998 ICMC proceedings, reprinted on

Fiddle’s creation arguments specify an analysis window size, the maximum polyphony (i.e., the number of simultaneous “pitches” to try the find), the number of peaks in the spectrum to consider, and the number of peaks, if any, to output “raw”. The outlets give discrete pitch (a number), detected attacks in the amplitude envelope (a bang), one or more voices of continuous pitch and amplitude, overall amplitude, and optionally a sequence of messages with the peaks.”

2. Let Fiddle find three groups of frequency ranges HIGH, MEDIUM, LOW, and scale them to DMX values.

3. Use the full range of values to control the manifold water pump.

4. Use the full range of values to control the central jet pump, but when passing from one range group to another, the output signal should be set to zero to create a water drop before it rises agian.

5. Asign HIGH range values to R, MEDIUM to G and LOW to B values to control the RGB LED lights.

6. Use the ATTACK signals to open and close the water jet solenoid valves.

Written by ajsteggell

September 21, 2008 at 4:44 pm

Sniffer sounds from Martin Howse

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Martin Howse has been working in Berlin on the sniffers for the Electromagnetic Fountain.

He has sent me nine audio samples from 4 different detectors where he mainly focused on placing a mobile phone close to different antenna/detector pairs while making incoming and outcoming calls.

You’ll find links to the sounds below as well as location details and notes that he enclosed with the sounds.

Backyard (hinterhof) studio in berlin, Mitte – plenty of 50 Hz power
lines, laptop in 30 m2 room and wireless router at other end of
room. Around 20 wireless networks close by in the yard. Also worth
noting is that the studio is very close to the huge Alexanderplatz TV
and radio transmitter (Fernsehturm).



This is using a detector based on the AD8307 chip which is looking at a
low/mid range of frequencies (DC to approx 500 MHz). I’m using it here
with the largest printed antenna which is kind of A4 sized (all the
printed antennas are the green ones for which I sent you the link
before) and is for 400 to 1000 MHz. As in most of the recordings the
mobile phone (standard Nokia on network – see below) is moved
around 1 to 3m from the detector. In this case the signal is not
amplified much (all recorded to minidisk and then transferred to


As above but with a bare wire antenna of maybe 1m length.


Using a detector based on the AD8313 chip which demodulates (roughly) in
wide band, high frequency range of 100 Mhz to 3.5 GHz. This is used with
a medium-sized printed antenna for 900 Mhz to 3 GHz. This one needs a
bit of amplification but the phone signal is very strong and clear even
4m away from the device.


As above but coming from 10m outside street door into studio with phone
ringing and then talking on the phone.


Using a detector based on the AD8318 which demodulates (again in rough
terms) a very high range of frequencies from 1 MHz to 8 GHz. Used with
smallest printed antenna (maybe 6 cm long) for 2-11 GHz. Amplification
is needed and the phone is quite close (maybe 1/2 to 1m) to get a


As above but with a laptop (external wireless card, bittorrent
downloading) providing this strong noisy signal up to 5m away. The
regular beating is from the wireless router which is then turned off
towards the end of the sample and turned on again. The other signals I
have no idea!


This is my own designed sniffer (from the Maxwell workshop but altered
with filter removed for a stronger signal). Here it is used with a tiny
coil (enclosed in plastic) – the one for this recording is 10
microhenries (Mh). Little amplification and a good signal from 2 to 3
metres away


As above but using a wire coil around 1m diameter and made from 2 km
thin copper wire. Power lines 50 Hz overwhelms all signals. Phone is
maybe 2cm away to be heard.


As above but with a chain of six 1mH tiny coils arranged in a circle.


The “ownsniff” detector (with small coils) covers a good, general range
and the other three focus well on more defined parts of the spectrum,
with 8313 working well for GSM900/1800 network devices (mobile phones),
and the 8318 for wireless networked devices (2.4 GHz and UMTS/3G –
around 2 GHz (untested)). These detectors are particularly sensitive
even at around a two metre distance and with only one phone. It may be
necessary to avoid overloading the detectors.

**further notes

The standard Nokia phone ( network) used is a dual band GSM900/1800
model (operating at both 900 MHz and 1800 MHz). These frequencies are
common throughout Europe. The high frequency signals are detected by the
devices and demodulated – what we here is the lower, now audible
frequencies (for GSM900 apparently 217 Hz) which pulse the higher
(carrier) frequency, and the overall envelope of the signal (a rough
analogy would be to standing outside a room with a cocktail party
happening inside – we can’t hear the individual voices or listen to the
conversations but we have an idea of how many people there are, when
they start and stop talking, and how loud they are).

EMF – reality bytes

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As mentioned before, co-ordinating this project in relation to equipment and budget through the summer break has been a bit chaotic since my last meeting with ROM3 and NLI. Working through the budget thoroughly proved that the previous design was too ambitious. The fountain design has been reverted to my original idea for a prototype for the Electromagnetic Fountain – to use 5 jets in a pentagon design with a larger jet in the centre. So the changes from the 03 version are:

5 jets with controllable valves instead of 15
2 variable speed water pumps instead of 5
8 RGB LED lights instead of 18
2 RGB controllers instead of 4
LANBOX LCX instead of LCE
Use the digital outputs on the Lanbox instead of Milford DMX relay/switch box to control the water/solenoid valves, with a custom made switch/relay box.


Written by ajsteggell

August 9, 2008 at 11:21 am

Listening to the Electrosmog detector

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THIS page describes how to identify the sources of electromagnetic radiation as heard using the Electrosmog detector that I used in my field survey for the Electromagnetic Fountain, and gives sound sample examples of them (listed below).

Background Hiss – Background Hiss (MP3, 79 KB)
GSM – GSM (MP3, 45 KB)
DECT – DECT (MP3, 111 KB)
3G – 3G (MP3, 104 KB)
3G – WiFi

(It also demonstrates how to extend the sensitivity of the sniffer.)

Sniffing in Stavanger – Little EMV sniffer

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This EMV sniffer was put together by Erich Berger and Martin Howse during the Maxwell City Workshop I took part in at Atelier Nord in 2007. It is based on kit components that can be purchased here.