That sign does indeed say “Lord Weston’s windy crack”. Yeah, I dunno. It was certainly howling a gale up there. Further along was a proper shed. Cut for sheddie pics
Finally! I’ve been working on this for years. If you’ve a good back bend, then it’s easy – your weight ends up rolling back into the tissu and stabilising this position. I have a crap back bend, so my weight is far forward from the tissu, hence it looks like hard work.
Also, I’m told my facial expression is “consterned”.
This is possibly the most relaxed video I’ve ever put together.
Squidsoup were kind enough to let me have a play with Volume 4,096 – a sculpture of four thousand LEDs, in a 16x16x16 cube that hangs in the foyer of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
These patterns are all Perlin noise in HSV-space, with varying rates of change and scaling. And yes, the patterns were generated with Processing and more Toxiclibs.
Our snug is, well, snug. That’s kind of the point. But it does mean that the wood burner is worryingly close to the hi-fi amplifier and the shelves. Hence I thought to myself, I’ll make a heat shield out of aluminium sheet. And to make it look pretty, I’ll write some code to generate a pattern and get that pattern laser-cut into the aluminium and it’ll look a lot like every other algorithmically-generated laser-cut pattern, except it’ll be uniquely mine and a project I can take right through from writing the code to screwing it all together.
It didn’t quite happen like that. But we’ll get to that bit.
Everyone and their dog is using Voronoi patterns, coz computational design is the flared trousers of this decade. The patterns are vaguely natural and there’s a wonderfull Processing library called Toxiclibs that makes this easy. Some messing about tweaking parameters gave me this design, which is just as flowingly organic as I wanted, i.e. not much by most people’s standards, daringly lacking in rectangularity by my standards:
I sent that design off to Ponoko for a quote. And then I fell over, coz US$60 for the aluminium sheet, US$50 for the laser cutting, and US$100 for the shipping, coz they don’t cut metal in NZ. I asked some more local cutters and they said a worse price. Errr… no. Instead, I just had some long showers and pondered, until I came up with another way to do it.
Print out the design full scale, glue the design to a sheet of aluminium from the pile in the workshop, and use that design as a guide to drill some holes free-hand:
Round the corners, deburr, run an orbital sander over the surface, tidy up, and it’s done:
Things I’ve learnt from this project:
1) Laser cutting metal is still really expensive.
2) Absolute positional accuracy is still really expensive. If you can design it away, then do so.
3) Per dollar, laser printers are astoundingly accurate pieces of kit.
4) Brushed finishes on aluminium hide a multitude of sins. Orbital sanders FTW!
Circulation is one of New Zealand’s finest little circus festivals. I got back from there last night, still covered in bruises and glitter, but I finally managed to get some video of the Mitochondrion in its native setting, helped by Nicholas Leland, Tama Bw of The Fire Bugs, Reece Dunn of Dragon Flow, Josh Smythe & myself for the spinning, JD for the dome and filming, and Ryan Walker at Spiral Technica for the live motion-tracking projection mapping. No idea where the mirrors came from, but cheers.
Tune is Will Marshall vs Youthful Implants – Use of Weapons, available at Soundcloud under a Creative Commons licence.
And thanks especially to everyone who helped put Circulation together.
The IPCC summarises climate change research. The first of their three reports, on the physical science of climate change, is out now. It covers the research since the IPCC’s last report, in 2007. After reviewing about 10,000 papers, the message is very simple:
The more fossil carbon we burn, the hotter it will get. It doesn’t really matter how fast we burn it, but if we dig it up and burn it, then we commit the planet to warming.
And that’s that. You can read the rest of the report if you like, but the single key message is right there.
(Figure SPM.10 from the Summary for Policymakers)
Mitochondrion Mark 4 code is now running on the Mark 5 chip. Teensy 3.0 – an ARM Cortex M4 on an 18 mm wide board. Consider me pleased. Have yet to time the code, but should be faster. Much faster. Which is required, as it might be possible to replace the Mark 4′s 88 LEDs with 800.
Still a long way to go for the Mark 5, but changing the chip from Arduino to Teensy is probably the biggest step.
Also, Eclipse is still a royal pain in the arse, but does actually work for compiling, building, and programming. No debugger and it doesn’t play nicely with the serial port, but it does the job.
(Oh, and the Teensy has an on-chip temperature sensor. This may be needed, as preliminary thermal modeling suggests that full-whack may make the whole thing melt. Coz, you know, EIGHT HUNDRED LEDS.)
That tiny thing is a Teensy 3.0. ARM Cortex M4.
It’s a serious step up in performance from the Arduino Nano that runs the Mark 4. Four times the program memory, eight times the variable memory, four times the clock speed and 32 bit not 8, so quite substantially more grunty.
Which is somewhat handy, as it’ll will have to look after somewhere between three and eight times as many LEDs.
Not me. I’m moving on to the Ministry of Primary Industries as senior science adviser.
It’s going to be the same combination of policy for science and science for policy, with a focus on the role of innovation in the primary sector. And being part of government, rather than an independent NGO, I will be keeping my opinions more to myself than usual.
It’s been a fun (just short of) ten years at the Royal Society. I’m proud of the pieces of advice that I’ve written/helped put together/been involved with, particularly:
2020: Energy Opportunities
Emerging Issues – Ocean Acidification
Geoengineering no replacement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Emerging Issues – Virtual Water
Emerging Issues – GM Forages
Emerging Issues – Sea Level Rise
Ecosystem Services in Policy workshop
Emerging Issues – Ecosystem Services
Future Marine Resource Use
Evidence from ten years of research contract management
The Sustainable Carrying Capacity of New Zealand
But been there, done that, and now the future’s going to be different.
Everyone’s been slagging off the Emissions Trading Scheme for failing to reduce emissions.
PCE: Returned ETS bill a failure
University of Canterbury: Greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme more or less dead
Labour: National’s ETS will mean burning more coal; failure to reduce emissions
And here’s the NZ carbon price collapse:
Market prices from Carbon Commtrade
I think they’re missing a critical point – the ETS is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. People are assuming that the ETS is a tool for reducing emissions. Not quite – it is a tool for matching the incentive for emissions reductions with the desire for emissions reductions. Let’s see how this works
Patrick’s put together a write-up of Sigma Mesa, which I mentioned obscurely a couple of weeks ago. We’ve made it onto Hackaday (Taking pictures of exploding wires) and Petapixel (Capturing High-Speed Photographs of Exploding Wires).
I say “we” with a degree of caution. Patrick did most of the work, with HWMNBN contributing timing and charging expertise. I mostly just had conceptual ideas, did some project management, stood around looking bemused, and worked out how to explain the value of all this engineering to a bunch of art and design people. We were aiming for a system that could image ~10 microsecond events using affordable hardware. To do this properly would require cameras that cost $8000 per day to hire, which means you’re only going to do it if you already know what you are doing. Instead we got useful data out of about a grand’s worth of kit, which means you get to play about and discover what might be possible.
It’s been creatively fun, we achieved what we wanted to achieve, and we impressed the people we wanted to impress. Clearly it’s time for a break.
So instead I found myself putting together a detailed plan for the next project. Oh god, this one is going to be awesome…
The Mitochondrion M4.2.3 code was a bit of a mess. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either that it was put together in a bit of a hurry for last summer’s festivals. And then I tweaked it further over the summer while running out of program memory (Arduino Nano/ATmega328 so only 32 kb). And then I left it alone for a month or so, to get sufficient distance from that code base before thinking about what it could be. The vast majority of the code sat in one big library file, the control logic say in one big function, and inter-object dependencies were bloody everywhere, to the point where I didn’t want to mess with any part of it.
Clearly the solution was to mess with all of it. So it was major refactor time, starting with a clean sheet of paper, then scribbling all over it to come up with a design that was pretty close to the existing approach but without all the knobbles. And then coding and testing and more coding.
The Mark 4.2.4 now has co-operative multitasking with flexible time-based scheduling; one task object per sensor, output, or pattern generator; a message queue for asynch inter-object comms; and a nice and tidy state/event table for controlling switching between different modes and smoothly handling those transitions. Objects have much more responsibility to handle their own transitions and modes, leading to fewer cross-object tangles and asynchronous behaviour where a mode change sends a message to every object, those objects can finish doing what they are doing before changing modes and reporting those changes back. Of course, it’s never that simple
So while schmoozing at LUX Wellington this weekend, someone from Biz Dojo asked:
“What do you do?”
“We blow shit up.”
“No, seriously, that’s what all geeks say. What do you actually do?”
“We blow shit up with microsecond precision.”
And when we gave a talk about blowing shit up. And explained some of this.
This is an ambivalent post.
This is beautiful:
When I say beauty, I don’t mean aesthetically. It’s a functional beauty, born of lightness and efficiency. The America’s Cup boats are cracking forty knots (or 75 kilometres per hour in sensible units), using nothing more than wind and carbon fibre. As an engineer, I’m proud to point to what we can do.
(Aesthetically, it’s hard to make anything that efficient which isn’t sleekly desirable. For me, that’s a side-effect, but you may disagree.)
At the same time, it’s a pretty hideous thing, an expensive, pointless, rich man’s toy. It’s exploring a parameter space that’s defined by legalese rather than any sane utility. And one just killed a member of its crew.
That dichotomy exemplifies our interactions with material objects, the same thing can be an object of desire and a component of an morally-vacuous consumer lifestyle. So how do we get out of this trap? Continue reading “In a full world, making anything at all is a responsibility”
You know that moment, immediately after an earthquake or explosion, when all the car alarms go off? Hold that thought…
In the UK in 2005, about three hundred tonnes of petrol spilt from an overflowing tank at the Buncefield fuel storage site. Most of that formed a vapour cloud in the still air and a spark eventually caused the whole lot to explode, flattening nearby buildings and leading to three days of fires that burned fifty thousand tonnes of petrol.
Amazingly, no-body died or was seriously injured, mostly because it happened first thing on a Sunday morning.
People who like to blow shit up Explosion mechanism experts are still studying this, as it was a strange explosion. It was a complicated mixture of deflagration and detonation. Deflagration means rapid burning, giving you a boom; detonation means a proper explosion, giving you a bang. In a deflagration, the flame front rushes through the vapour cloud, setting it on fire and giving you a lovely fireball climbing into the sky. In a detonation, shock waves expand supersonically, kicking the whole lot off pretty much in one go.
Normally, with a big cloud of gasoline vapour in open space, you get deflagration. You only get detonation if you have the cloud confined so that pressures can build up (some of you can think of an obvious example). Buncefield was a mix of the two. Some of the trees and hedges provided enough confinement to turn deflagrations into detonations. However, the (sadly paywalled) summary report on the disaster also contains this theory:
“[The first] deflagration led to a fireball that … created a pressure wave … that moved across the car parks. This activated the remote keyless entry anti-theft alarms in cars at the western edges. These caused ignition and vented deflagrations from the cars … This suggests that it would be prudent to test the propensity, or otherwise, for activated antitheft alarms to ignite a flammable mixture.”
So yeah, the cars were sitting in the vapour cloud, the initial blast from the first burning set off the car alarms, the alarms triggered the cars to go boom.
I don’t know about you, but I find that hilarious.