I am working with Jay on this project to visualise earthquakes around the world in real time with Ferrofluid.
We will be using this earthquake RSS that updates live the latest 50 earthquakes around the world. Once we get this data we will process it with Arduino and Processing to detect (using the coordinates from the feed) where in relation to the UK is and then give it the value of North, South, East, West depending on where it is. This will then mean earthquakes detected in the East will be represented in the left petri dish of ferrofluid, and earthquakes in the North (Greenland etc) would be displayed in the top petri dish and vice versa, you get the point. There will be 4 petri dishes laid out like a compass or a cross for the 4 directions. This will let users see where in the world has the most seismic activity in realtime. So the more activity in a specific area will be relayed by a more intense movement in the Ferrofluid.
The design of the equipment is shown above. Basically the Arduino will have 4 relays connected to it that each have their own circuit with a 9V battery and a DC motor. On this motor will be a wheel with a magnet at the top, so as it goes round the magnet goes up and down on the Y plane, creating an UP/DOWN effect that will magnetise the Ferrofluid suspended in water and window cleaner (contained in a petri dish) above the magnet/motor combo. Depending on the seismic activity in the 4 regions the Arduino will make the Relays pulse faster speeding up the motors in turn making the magnet go up and down faster so the Ferrofluid will react accordingly. We had thought about creating it other ways, using different stepper motors, but due to Arduino equipment constraints we have to use DC motors. Also we thought about hacking a standard wall clock thanks to an idea by Simon Lock, but we decided against it. You can read more about the development from the 301 feed here.
Once we get a new Arduino kit tomorrow (our one we picked up the other day doesn't work) we should be able to get the code finalised over the next 2 weeks worst case. We have the motors and Ferrofluid already as we have been developing the idea for the past few weeks (video below). Then the remaining 2 weeks will be to construct the housing for the project and get the wheel and magnet working! As we want this to look amazing and clean with clear acrylic like in the gallery above. Its a great project for a pristine white gallery space.
As long as we don’t encounter any code problems the project should be a success as we have had a fair bit of experience with Ferrofluid over the last few months. We made an electromagnet that pulsed at Ferrofluid using data from Ecoids shown here which made me and Jay want to pursue the area more. This project is pretty spot on with the brief as we are using data in realtime, representing it in an innovative and abstract way with a material that is more at home in the labs of NASA. Because of this it is quite experimental and really will become a quite mysterious, beautiful but also dark installation piece. As Noel (2008, p.122) pretty much sums it up “The animated fluid becomes a kind of ghostly protagonist, a manifestation of another world”.
Noel, S. (2008) Digital By Design Thames & Hudson Ltd.