The Electromagnetic Fountain

Posts Tagged ‘fountain design

Electromagnetic Fountain @ Porsgrunn

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Research Days
Telemark University College, Porsgrunn, Norway
18 – 27  September 2009

The Electromagnetic Fountain will stand in Porsgrunn, Norway, for a period of nine days during the annual national research days.


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Houston, we have a problem

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Inspection_02 Houston, we have a problem
L-R: Atle (ROM3), Svein Kjetil, Øystein and Geir (NLI Engineering)

Had a meeting today with the project group from NLI Engineering AS to go over the water pressure and leakage troubles, as well as the electronic valve issue. Contrary to the idea of getting a 3rd pump to help/feed the two existing ones was the suggestion to address the “visible” faults – the angles and bends in the tubes running from the nozzles to the pumps and valves. The electronic valve issue should be solved with a relay box that supplies the valves with electricity, and is triggered by signals from the existing switch box. If this works, it won’t be too costly, and could be completed by Wednesday. Perhaps I will see the water jets working by the time I have to leave on Sunday.

The software still keeps running!

I am feeling positive :-)

(PS: Just got a call from my flat in Oslo – the water pipes in the bathroom are leaking – and water it running down into the flat below. This cannot be happening!)

Written by ajsteggell

October 20, 2008 at 9:37 pm

EMF update – ROOM 313

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Room 313

I am sitting in room 313 at Thon Høyes Hotel in Skien, Norway, waiting for all the other guests to go out and have fun on Friday night so the wireless net connection goes faster and I can update my blog. I’m a bit lonely, but it is a very friendly hotel down by the water. My room is moderately sized and quite cozy really, with just enough space for me and all my clothes and equipment that I have been carrying with me from place to place for the past 9 weeks. There’s a telly, a desk, a single bed and a couple of chairs and a spacious bathroom. I have my espresso machine with me so I can make good coffee when I want to.

Breakfast and dinner

Each morning I eat breakfast in the restaurant, and make a packed lunch of fruit, sandwiches and yogurt before setting off to the old warehouse down the road at Klosterøya provided kindly by Bautas Equipment Rentals to work on the EM fountain. The warehouse is huge, cold and inhabited by several pigeons, but I like it, and the staff at Bautas are extremely friendly and supportive.

Each evening I eat the dinner of the day accompanied by one glass of wine (house red or white, according to the dish on offer) before coming up to my room to plan the next day, and then falling to sleep in a heap. Each day brings with it a new and unexpected hurdle to overcome.

Programming (max/msp) with Trond at BEK

Having been here almost a week to work on the fountain construction at Frank Ralles workshop, I took the train to Bergen to work on the programming of the fountain with Trond Lossius at BEK (Bergen Centre for Electronic Art), who, having invited me to give two presentations of my project earlier, offered to work with me for three days on the matter. One of the main issues was to devise a way to get meaningful data out of location-sensitive, unpredictable sound data that flows from the detectors designed by Martin – and then find a meaningful way to map the results of the data onto the fountain’s mechanisms. We encountered a series of technical malfunctions in relation to the detectors, the origins of which are too complicated to go into here, with many unknown variables/causes. Anyway, I will cut through them and move on to what we ended up doing, but before doing so I would like to mention one thing. Working with the detectors and the analysis of the signals revealed, amongst other things, how bodies moving through electromagnetic fields alter the fields themselves. This is a fascinating (re)discovery that could be picked up on later. Water jets could, for example, follow people around as they moved through the fields picked up by the detectors. There are a lot of potentials to address in the future.

We worked on the most reliable detector, and the one that eventually gave the strongest signals – the VLF sniffer with 2m coil antenna. This one picks up and delivers strong signals of EM fields in its very close proximity and gives delicious sounds. We put a mobile phone directly over the antenna nose to create a continuous input signal. Plugging the audio output from the sniffer into the audio interface (amplifying it) and the mac mini, we analyzed the brightness, loudness and noisiness of the sound signal in various ways, visualizing it and looking/listening for significant changes in the signal. As a new change occurs, the fountain valves adapt a new pattern/sequence. Each sequence resembles a “classic” fountain choreography, but because the rhythm is dependent on the quirky rhythm of the network signals it is all a bit off beat. This is of course all theoretical right now. The fountain is not here physically, and we can only watch what is happening on the screen, but it looks and feels very promising.

Each jet pattern circulates either clockwise or anticlockwise. When the mobile phone receives a call, or a signal from elsewhere produces a dramatic change, then all valve jets of the fountain are programmed to “flash” open and closed. Applying an autoscaler to the data became very interesting in relation to this behavior. As it takes time for max/msp to re-calibrate the signal from memory/buffer it is as if the fountain must recover from a trauma, or an exertion, before moving back to its pulsating mode.The mobile phone also acts as sensor/antenna for other data flows – though it is difficult to say exactly what they are and where they come from. So, in the light of the time scale and demands of getting the EM fountain ready for public exposure, this solution (a mob mounted directly on the antenna nose) has become the basis for the second EMF prototype.

This solution focuses mainly on direct human interaction, but has some environmental influences too. When leaving BEK I had an ambition to utilize at least one other of Martin’s sniffers to get more of the environmental influence in the picture, but after today’s discoveries I am not so confident about this ….

Yesterday – back in Skien

Returning from Bergen on the night train on Wednesday evening, I dumped my stuff at the hotel, was picked up by Atle Barcley (ROM3/ producer) and driven to the warehouse to see the work that had been done during my absence. It looked great but the chamber that holds the electronic gear had been sealed with a bolted panel, rather than a locked door. Having noted this we rushed around finding a table, chair, as well as a drill and bit/chimney with which to open the chamber.

Bautas Warehouse Work station

I hooked up my mac to the fountain to assign DMX channels, etc, to the electrical components – valves, lights, pumps – with some success (pumps and central light were connected, great! Only the solenoid valves and 5 jet lights to go. By that time I was cold and tired, but optimistic enough to phone Marius the Electrician to tell him of the success.

Today ……

Today I have sworn like the devil, and cursed every living creature on earth – and then, after a while, repented.

Next morning (today) I meet Marius. We correct the dmx addresses on the rgb light controller for the jet lamps and the solenoid valve switch box. All is working fine, it seems. Excitedly, we start to fill the fountain bowl with water (it has taken a long time to get to this stage) ……

Filling the bowl

….. and with horror find that two streams of water are flowing out of the hexagon hole in the centre of the fountain base over the floor. After a short period of disbelief and panic, we cut off the electric power and investigate further. There are two open holes that should have been closed in the centre of the bowl. They are for the cables that will run from the 2 rgb lamps that have not yet been delivered, to their power supplies in the electronics chamber of the base. PHEW. However, we also discover that there is water leaking from the tubes connected to the water pump system. DAMNATION.

Leaky pump

Marius fixes the plumping. He fills the empty holes with cables.

Fixing holes 2 Fixing holes

We fill the bowl with water and try out the pumps. Instead of a 4 m jet flowing out from the central pump, a pathetic 4 cm dribble appears. HELVETES FAEN! (very naughty Norwegian swearing). And even though the switch box is working in accordance with the software signals, the valves do not open or close, neither does the water pump that supplies them seem to be responding. SATANS HELVETES FAEN! (okay, so this means “the devil’s hell devil” – an overkill I agree, but I was very disappointed, and there aren’t that many Norwegian swear words to choose from if you don’t want to get sexist).

After much investigation and telephone calls, Marius the Electrician-and-Plumber-and co-problem solver and I conclude that:

1. The pumps are too weak.

2. The tubes supplying them are to wide and long.

3. The solenoid valves welded into the fountain are not the ones that should have been ordered, requiring 250v instead of 12v power.

(More swearing in English this time, but I’m too ashamed to repeat it.)

I call Atle who arrives as soon as he can.

Inspection

I am mad at almost everybody, including myself. I calm down and apologize – admitting that everyone on this project is entering new ground and stretching themselves in one way or another. It is a case of learning by doing – and doing it together, over coming differences, ambitions and expectations. Looking at the world today that must be a good thing.

Looking at the problem from different angles, we put the water supply tube directly into the central hole (that feeds water to both the cnetral pump and the pump for the 5 valves) in the middle of the fountain bowl, turn on the water and activate the dmx signal that controls the power supply to the pump. The water jet jumps straight up, high into the air. Lovely! So a 3rd pump that sucks water down to the 2 other pumps would solve the pressure problem.

We make a plan to resolve the problems on Monday.

The rest is to follow ……

Forever Till the End

EPILOGUE

Last night Søren Jessen, a good friend to my sons, died as a result of cancer and the effects of kemo therapy. I can hear his very distinctive Danish accent clearly, and recount the colourful stories my sons came home with when visiting him in the countryside in the summer holidays. It is very humbling news.

Written by ajsteggell

October 17, 2008 at 11:09 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.

DAY 3

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.

Day 2 at Frank’s place

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This post is more of a memory aid for me to remember what goes where in the fountain base as the bottom plates will shortly be put on. It is also the last chance to take a look at the open base and its design on the inside, and from above. We are still waiting for the sniffers to arrive from Berlin, and the dmx switch box to arrive from England.

Here’s 2 photos of the fountain base at the start of day 2:

Inspection 2 pumps
The 2 pumps have been bolted in place in their chamber on the top of the base (which is still upside down).

Wiring Bars in place
L: Marius threads the electric cables through holes from chamber to chamber.
R: Frank has soldered the metal bars on the bottom of the base in place.

Top view Water Power

L: The last view of the base construction before the bottom panels are put in place.
R: In the break Frank demonstrates how to get power out of electromagnetically charged water.

Central water tube hole Water tube holes

L: Hole for the central pump/jet water tube.
R: 5 holes for the 5 solenoid valve/jet water tubes

Power in Light holes

L: The hole for the electric power supply to the central jet pump.
R: 8 holes for the electric cables that lead from the rgb control boxes to the 8 underwater led lights.

Pump cables 01 Valve cable holes

L: Pump cables.
R: Solenoid valve cable holes.

Tubes in Tube fixture Tube fitting detail

L: Frank installs the water tubes that will carry water from the pumps to the 5 solenoid valves and central nozzle.
C: Water tube/pump fixture.
R: Water tube fitting.

Panel Atle, Frank and solenoid valves

L & R: The first base bottom panel is in place on the bottom of the fountain base, covering the computer/dimmer/rgb controller/ sound interface chamber. Atle Barcley (on the left) writing down the things he has to buy for tomorrow.

Chamber Pump and valves

L. The chamber for the electrical components with base and lid. The parts are being screwed in place, and electric cabling drawn threw holes from chamber to chamber.
R: The water tubes run from the solenoid valves the central hexagon chamber. They will be drawn out of corresponding holes on the bottom of the fountain bowl and feed the 5 pentagon nozzles.

Dismantled LAN box Father and Son

L: I am a bit distraught when I see Marius has dismantled my LAN box, but I’m sure he has a good reason.
R: At the end of the day Frank’s son, David, arrives to check out his dad’s work.

I think that we will be running a bit behind our schedule. The aim was to get the fountain construction finished by Thursday and transport it to an old warehouse at Klosterøya to test it with water in it. However, the fact that the dmx switch box is still sitting in the care of the customs officers in Oslo has put a damper on things ……. I’m a bit concerned about time running down the drain, but have decided not to panic and to keep relaed and confident about it all ….. hmmmm.

An exciting day at Frank’s workshop

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So, I finally arrived in Skien and got my first glimpse of the Electromagnetic Fountain for real in Frank Ralle’s workshop!

EMF jets

Here it is, with 6 nozzles mounted on the bowl which rests on a square-shaped base.
Here’s the base with the bowl taken off, and upside down.

EMF base EMF base 2

There I discovered a hexagon within which three triangular chambers are in construction. I am fascinated by the way Frank has thought about the geometry of the whole construction – drawing various geometric forms out of the pentagon/circle form. It is all very alchemic.

The 3 chambers will hold the fountain’s electrical components.

1. The computer (Mac mini), 2 rgb led light controllers, cls dmx dimmer, LAN box LCX, Alesis sound interface and Milford Electronics DMX switch/relay box.

2. The “wet” components – 2 pumps and 5 solenoid valves.

3. The EM sniffers.

We start to find out where the components in chamber 1 should be placed (R photo).

I like the look of the base upside down – it looks like something that could be landing on Mars sometime.

Here’s the marking’s Frank has made on the hexagon for drilling holes that will carry cables up to the 8 rgb lights and the 4 EM sniffers that Martin Howse has made (still waiting for them to arrive from Berlin).

Hexagon Marking the hexagon

And here he is drilling holes!

Drilling

The central jet nozzle and 3 rgb lights will be mounted on this construction …..

EMF Central Jet EMF Central Jet 02

But first it needs a bit of work ….

Soldering

At some point during the day Marius The Electrician arrives to plan the work he will start tomorrow – namely connecting all the various cables to the various components together in a safe way so that folks won’t get electrocuted.

Marius the electrician EMF base

Marius works for NLI Engineering AS, the company who is responsible for projecting my project. It is obvious that this project provides him with a challenge, but he is smart, dedicated and easy to talk to, so we work through various unknown factors together – reading manuals, asking questions, etc. I discover errors on the product list. there are 2 rgb led lights missing, as well as various cables. Atle Barcley, the producer, rushes around following things up. (Sorry Atle, I didn’t get a photo of you).

At the end of the day I take a walk outside. I discover that Frank’s workshop lies on the river that flows between Prosgrund and Skien. So some pictures of the surroundings follow …. and note the beautiful summer sunshine that accompanied the day ….

Brødrene Ralle AS Junk

A strange machine Friends in the back yard

Workshop view 02 Workshop view 01

It has been a great day. It is an undescribable feeling to see something imagined taking form in the real world ……

Written by ajsteggell

October 6, 2008 at 10:21 pm

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 http://www.crca.ucsd.edu/~msp.

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