A web developer who also spends a lot of time behind a camera.
67 stories
·
2 followers

And Now, A New Short Story: The Origin of the Flow

1 Share

Back around my birthday, I ran a fundraiser for RIP Medical Debt, which buys up the medical debt of Americans for pennies on the dollar, and having done so, erases it — meaning those people, previously despairing of the cost of their medical care, just didn’t have to worry about it anymore. I noted that if the amount raised was $5k, I would write a short story, and if it reached $10k, I’d do audio. Well, we hit about $18k, so, uh, yeah. I was gonna have to pay up.

And so, here it is, and an interesting bit it is — I mentioned yesterday, when I wrote about writing The Last Emperox, my upcoming novel, that I sometimes write reference pieces for myself so I can give some context to myself about what I’m writing. Those pieces usually are never seen by others, but they’re useful for me, and they make a better book for everyone else.

This is one of those pieces. In the book, humans get around space via “The Flow” — a “metacosmological multidimensional space” that’s not of this universe but lets people get around in it at multiples of the speed of light. I decided I needed to give The Flow an origin story, as well as understand how people discovered it, so I wrote this piece for myself, which I am sharing with you now.

Because the piece is not in the book, this origin story of The Flow is not “canonical” — which is to say, while I wrote it to understand the universe I created, I reserve the right in the future to ignore it entirely or in parts if, for the purposes of writing a new book in the universe, I decide to go in another direction. To that respect, you could consider it “fan fiction” of my own universe. Which I think is pretty nifty.

So: If you donated to RIP Medical Debt for my birthday: This is for you. Thank you for being awesome.

In addition to this fulfilling my promise to write a short story for the RIP Medical Debt donators, today over on Twitter I passed the 170,000 followers mark — which makes this story a pretty nifty way to mark that occasion as well. If you follow me on Twitter: Hey, thanks. I appreciate it.

And now, without further ado, our story. The audio version is up at the top, and the text version follows.

THE ORIGIN OF THE FLOW

by John Scalzi

 

13.7 billion years ago, there was an event that was commonly known as “The Big Bang.”

(On first blush this might appear to be going back a little too far, but stick with this for a moment.)

After the briefest of moments after the Big Bang, it’s generally understood how the universe proceeded. There was the appearance of everything that would ever exist in the universe in a tight, hot little space, a brief but significant expansion phase, and then from there it’s atomic creation: hydrogen and some helium turning into stars which turn into heavier elements which turn into other stars and rocks and planets and air and people and so on. Which is fine as far as it goes.

Of course, it was not as far as it goes. As the Big Bang birthed the universe, other cosmological entities, not of the universe but concurrent with it and in some cases coincident with it, sprang into multidimensional being and evolved as the universe evolved, although not always in the same ways or at the same pace. The universe, despite the roots of its name, was not alone.

Understandably human beings, and presumably any other intelligent species that might have also been developing along the entropic vector known as “time,” could be forgiven for thinking it was alone, and having a parochial view of things. For most of their time as a species, humans could only apprehend, understand and respond to the physical world directly surrounding them, a planet filled with water and atmosphere and predators. It was only after the species developed the capacity for abstract thought, language and mathematics that its understanding could contemplate the possibility that its planet, much less its solar system, galaxy and universe, was not all there was to the story.

Even then, and even after their capacity for thought was augmented by machines that would eventually do nearly all the heavy lifting, humans could only theorize that things beyond their universe might exist. This was for the same reason that their ancestors could only see to what was directly in front of them: They couldn’t escape their own frame of reference. The universe, as vast as it was – vaster even than could be observed – contained them utterly, a prison extending billions of lightyears in every direction.

And so it continued, until Tirzah Dalimunthe, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, came to the realization that her dissertation work – on an excitingly new and profoundly abstruse branch of mathematics describing wildly theoretical structures called “metabranes” – accidentally, incidentally and indeed almost insultingly casually suggested that at least some metabrane structures actually existed and intruded into the known universe – a fact that could shake the very foundations of mathematics, physics and indeed reality as it was then understood.

Or would have, had Dalimunthe given a shit about it, which she didn’t, because she was desperately trying to finish her fucking dissertation, which was about something else entirely. She couldn’t just abandon years of research and antagonize her dissertation advisor, who she was pretty sure hated her guts anyway, on the mere suggestion of metabranes maybe poking into normal spacetime. That was fine and all, but what she really wanted to do was get her doctorate, find a teaching job, marry her fiancé and go on a honeymoon in Anguilla with nothing to do but drink fruity drinks and sex up her new spouse.

And indeed Dalimunthe did all of those things, in roughly that order. Then she lived, mostly happily, for another 53 years, having forgotten entirely about emergent metabrane structures. Good for her.

Twenty years after Dalimunthe was cremated, and her ashes covertly spread near a beach bar in Anguilla, there was another doctoral student, this one at the Freising-Weihenstephan branch of Technische Universität München, who came across her dissertation while searching for supporting material for their own nascent doctoral project. Unlike Dalimunthe, Korel Mainz had not already invested years to a particular topic, so when they followed the math on her discovery, they were more than willing to invest the time, and the university’s resources, in building it out fully.

Six years later, Mainz’s dissertation exploded across the fields of mathematics and physics and made them into their generation’s rock star scientist. Ten years after that Mainz picked up their Nobel Prize in physics, following the Fields-Lee medal in mathematics they had picked up the year before. A year after that, while attending symposium on the rapidly growing field of metabrane research, Mainz stepped off the curb to take a picture of the newly refurbished Empire State Building and walked backward into a bus, killing them instantly.

Two years after that fatal vehicular embrace, there was a statue of Mainz on the Technische Universität München main campus, and a final paper, revised and finished by their post-docs, which posited an instance of metabrane intrusion within the solar system, positioned, for mathematical reasons that only six people on the planet could genuinely follow, 35 astronomical units away, well below the plane of the ecliptic, in the direction of the constellation Tucana.

Sixteen years later, the Dalimunthe I spacecraft (so named because Korel Mainz was not an asshole and quite willingly gave credit where it was due, propelling the late Dalimunthe into minor posthumous fame) arrived at Mainz’s Rift, as the metabrane intrusion was colloquially called. The Rift couldn’t be seen from Earth, or in the Dalimunthe spacecraft’s cameras and sensors. The Dalimunthe rocketed at sixty thousand kilometers an hour toward a spot described only by math, of unknown size and dimension, reached it, and disappeared.

Some minutes later, allowing for the speed of light, there was champagne being cracked open in the Dalimunthe’s mission control center. Humanity had proven the existence of metabrane structures by blindly chucking a spacecraft into one to see what would happen. Someone in the Dalimunthe mission control noted that humans had effectively littered outside the bounds of the universe. Someone else dumped their champagne on his head.

Where that litter went was the topic of intense discussion among metabrane scientists for the next thirty years, with the field schisming into two camps, the ones who theorized there was a there there, and the ones who theorized there was no there there. The former camp hypothesized the Tucana Metabrane was actually another universe with more or less the same design as our own, whereas the latter camp laughed in their faces for being naïve enough to believe that any alternate universe-sized structure would operate under the same rules.

The two sides yelled at each other at annual conferences until a physicist named Diego Vasquez, of the “no there there” camp, presented a paper that posited that by wrapping a bubble of local space-time around a spacecraft, it might enter the Mainz Rift, study what was there, and exit to transmit the data. Everyone agreed this was an intriguing idea. Now all they needed to do was figure out how to create and maintain a bubble of local space time.

Which only took 58 years. Along the way several of the “failed” avenues of scientific exploration into doing so created more efficient spacefaring propulsion systems, the “push” fields which simulated gravity (and kept crews inside spaceships from being crushed by high-gravity acceleration) and a number of advances in computational science. While the scientists were working away on the Bubble Problem, commercial spaceflight, exploration and habitation took off in a significant way. When the Bubble Problem was solved and an exploratory spaceship (the Vasquez) prepped for the rift, it did not launch from Earth on the top of the rocket years before reaching its destination, but was ferried there in a cargo ship – a Lockheed/Wu Tacoma-class hauler, in point of fact – which reached the Mainz Rift from Earth orbit in thirteen days.

The plan was for the Vasquez to enter the rift, spend six hours (of subjective, relative time as counted off by the craft’s internal chronometer) collecting data, and return the way it came, if possible. As backup, an antenna aimed in the direction of a science station stationary a third of an AU over the sun’s north pole (again, relative to the Vasquez’s position as it entered the rift) would squirt data back into space. If time worked weirdly in the rift – or didn’t work at all – and the Vasquez popped out months or years later, it was designed to locate the sun, reorient, and hail the science station and start sending data.

Which it did, sixteen years and a couple of months later.

The good news was that the emergency reorient protocol worked; the Vasquez found the sun, deduced where the science station would be, and the data streamed in strong and uncorrupted.

The bad news was the data was useless; whatever was in the Mainz Rift was not observable by any of the instruments the Vasquez carried with it. The “no there there” crowd was smug about this.

The weird news was that the Vasquez’s signal was coming from AD Leonis, a red dwarf star sixteen lightyears from Earth.

The fact that the signal was coming from AD Leonis was weird in itself; what was even weirder was the fact that the signal was received just a little over sixteen years after the Vasquez had disappeared. The signal in itself had taken sixteen years to reach Earth, coursing across the heavens at the speed of light.

Which meant the Vasquez had reached AD Leonis a little over two months after it disappeared into the Mainz Rift.

To do that, it would have had to have traveled about ninety times the speed of light.

Which is just not done.

In our universe, at least.

Read the whole story
davenelson
41 days ago
reply
Atlanta, Georgia
Share this story
Delete

Is It Time To Get Rid Of The Caps Lock Key?

3 Comments
"At its worst, it's a waste of precious space, an annoyance, a solution to a problem that doesn't exist any more," complains Daniel Colin James, a writer, developer, product manager. In a recent Medium essay, he called the Caps Lops key "an unnecessary holdover from a time when typewriters were the bleeding edge of consumer technology" -- and even contacted the man who invented the Caps Lock key (Doug Kerr, who had been a Bell Labs telephone engineer in the 1960s): I reached out to Doug about his invention, and he responded that while he still uses Caps Lock regularly, "we don't often today have a reason to type addresses in all caps, which was the context in which the need for the key first manifested itself to me."

I would go a step further, and say that most of us don't often have a reason to type anything in all caps today... [A] toggle with the same functionality could easily be activated in a number of different ways for those who really want to write things in all capital letters. (Say, for example, double tapping the Shift key, like how it already works on your phone.) Caps Lock is one of the largest keys on a modern keyboard, and it's in one of the best spots -- right next to the home row. It's taking up prime real estate, and it's not paying its rent any more.

Have you ever been in the middle of typing something, and then you get the uneasy feeling thaT YOU FLEW TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN AND NOW YOU HAVE TO REWRITE YOUR WORDS? You're not alone. Accidentally activating Caps Lock is such a relatable mistake that it's the introductory example for a research paper about accessibility issues with modern computer interfaces. Caps Lock is so frequently engaged unintentionally that password fields in software have to include a "Caps Lock is on" warning.

I've heard of people re-mapping their keyboards so the Caps Lock key becomes "Esc" or "Ctrl." But maybe it comes down to consumers. If you were shopping for a computer and were told that it shipped without a Caps Lock key -- would you be more or less likely to buy it?

Share your own thoughts in the comments. Is it time to get rid of the Caps Lock key?
Read the whole story
davenelson
137 days ago
reply
I use the caps lock key to switch layers and have a key down at the bottom-right side of the keyboard as a caps lock. I will never buy another non-programable keyboard. QMK FTW!
Atlanta, Georgia
Share this story
Delete
2 public comments
denismm
153 days ago
reply
I pry it off when I can, disable it when I can’t.
jepler
154 days ago
reply
I like it for compose (I like to be able to type the áçcentêd characters on my otherwise standard US layout), and of course so many emacs users like it as a place for ctrl. On my newest laptop, where I haven't bothered remapping it yet, I keep hitting the thing at random and ending up stuck in caps-world, ugh.
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm

The Daily Edit – Ethan Pines: Forbes Magazine

1 Share

Ethan Pines talks about photographing Elizabeth Holmes for Forbes

In late 2014 I photographed Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of the now notoriously fraudulent blood-testing company and Silicon Valley darling Theranos. When I shot her for the Forbes 400 issue, she was the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. By 2016 The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair and others had published excoriating investigative pieces, and Forbes estimated her net worth at zero.

EthanPines_Forbes_elizabeth-holmes.jpg

Suddenly her story is everywhere again: John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood is a hit, HBO’s documentary The Inventor just premiered at Sundance, the ABC News podcast The Drop Out is streaming, and a seemingly endless number of articles on Holmes’s massive fraud have come out. In addition to appearing editorially here and there, my portraits have been licensed as key art for the HBO documentary and the ABC podcast.

EthanPines_HBO_TheInventor_PS uprez_3072px.jpg

EthanPines_HBO_TheDropout_1600px.jpg

And friends keep asking me, What was it like at the company? What did you see around their offices? How was it spending a few hours with the woman who appears to be a narcissistic, delusional fraud, maybe even a sociopath? The short answer is, I now see clearly how her starry-eyed investors were taken in. 

The company came across as fairly standard Silicon Valley. A campus in Palo Alto, a P.R. person coordinating and vetting everything beforehand, modern open-office architecture, lots of young people from an array of countries walking around doing their jobs. On the walls were large prints from a Martin Schoeller shoot commissioned by the company — including a portrait of Holmes herself — and a giant mural with Yoda’s famous DO OR DO NOT. THERE IS NO TRY. The company was accommodating and welcoming, which is usually the case when you’re coming in to shoot a potential Forbes cover.

124Y-00-8745_scouting.jpg

124Y-00-8746_scouting.jpg

As a biotech company, they also had a ton of lab equipment, machinery and accessories around. In hindsight, I keep wondering, if Theranos’s core technology and promises couldn’t deliver, what was all this for? I suppose they were trying to make good on Holmes’s unproven, likely impossible promise of conducting dozens of tests from a single drop of blood, i.e., they were following tech’s ubiquitous fake-it-till-you-make-it approach. Some areas were a jam-packed, disorganized mess. (See next image.)

124Y-00-8750_scouting.jpg

124Y-00-8757_scouting.jpg

124Y-00-8766_scouting.jpg

As for Holmes herself, photographing her was entirely different from what you might think. While she apparently sought to emulate Steve Jobs — his mythically genius status, his black minimalist wardrobe, his change-the-world ambitions, his megalomania — she did not adopt his difficult demeanor, at least on the day we spent with her. Jobs was reputed to be an awful jerk. Holmes was polite, genuine, easygoing, friendly, accessible and an engaged conversationist. She asked about me and my crew, never dominating the conversation. She did her own hair and makeup (quite well). She spent much of her time on set without her her P.R. person around. 

I’ve photographed a lot of tech CEOs — Sundar Pichai at Google, Elon Musk at Spacex, Kevin Systrom at Instagram, Jen-Hsun Huang at Nvidia, Tom Siebel at C3 IoT, Patrick Soon-Shiong at Nantworks, Travis Kalanick at Uber, etc. — and they all either have very little time, a specific way they want to be portrayed, a persona they put on for the media, or all of the above. They may not all start out being cut from the same cloth, but they often seem to end up that way, making it harder to sort the frauds from the visionaries. Yet Elizabeth Holmes was surprisingly malleable, seemingly a blank slate. 

She ceded control, trusted us with the shoot and took direction well. She didn’t come out of the gate with fake investor-friendly smiles and body language, nothing smug, no crossed-arm power poses like subjects tend to do for Forbes. I asked her to relax her face completely and just look into the camera, and we got those doe-eyed blank expressions you see in the posters. Between her black turtleneck, shaped black jacket and asymmetrical hair, she had a bit of a sci-fi look, and I told her so. She appreciated the compliment. She was a bit of a dream subject, and I think I was developing a crush on her.

EthanPines_VanityFair_ElizabethHolmes_1600px.jpg

She gave us a lot of time, which is unusual. After setting up for about three hours beforehand, we shot her in three different locations for at least a couple of hours. In two of the setups I asked if we could have some blood samples in the shots, and I found it a bit weird that they had these tiny, fake blood containers just sitting around, at the ready … for what? Publicity? Internal presentations? Employee morale? There was also a metal cart labeled Ebola in the lab where we shot, which freaked us out a bit.

124Y-02-0013.jpg

124Y-03-0032_1600px_srgb.jpg

If you’ve seen footage of her talking, you’ve probably noticed her unusually low voice. There are rumors that she deliberately lowered her voice to compete in the male-dominated tech field, but I don’t recall it being that low, and I think I would have remembered something so odd. What I do remember is being charmed by this young, attractive, billionaire visionary who spent time with me and my crew and made us feel important. 

And now I realize: This is part of what lured investors. Sincerity. Relatability. Accessibility. Simplicity. The facade of quiet wisdom. Eye contact from huge blue eyes that made you feel you were hearing the unvarnished truth. How could there be anything sinister or deceitful behind those giant, pure glacial pools? In a promotional video commissioned by the company, a compilation of female employees dreamily laud Holmes as “inspiring,” ”intelligent,” “strong,” “nurturing” and full of “big ideas.” Holmes appears at the end the video. At first she looks down humbly, speaks thoughtfully. Finally she looks up at the lens to deliver the final line: “Next to every glass ceiling there’s an iron lady.”

You couldn’t help liking her, wanting to believe her, itching to embrace the dreamy future she promised. I could see how investors and the media were taken in, just as I was. How bizarre to look back and realize that we were in the belly of a massive fraud machine, the deception happening all around us.  It’s hard to know what was real and what was fake, both in the company and in Holmes herself. By the end, perhaps not even she knew. 

The post The Daily Edit – Ethan Pines: Forbes Magazine appeared first on A Photo Editor.

------------------------

Visit our sponsor Photo Folio, providing websites to professional photographers for over 10 years. Featuring the only customizable template in the world.

------------------------

Read the whole story
davenelson
284 days ago
reply
Atlanta, Georgia
Share this story
Delete

Introducing HyperDev

1 Comment and 3 Shares

One more thing…

It’s been awhile since we launched a whole new product at Fog Creek Software (the last one was Trello, and that’s doing pretty well). Today we’re announcing the public beta of HyperDev, a developer playground for building full-stack web-apps fast.

HyperDev is going to be the fastest way to bang out code and get it running on the internet. We want to eliminate 100% of the complicated administrative details around getting code up and running on a website. The best way to explain that is with a little tour.

Step one. You go to hyperdev.com.

Boom. Your new website is already running. You have your own private virtual machine (well, really it’s a container but you don’t have to care about that or know what that means) running on the internet at its own, custom URL which you can already give people and they can already go to it and see the simple code we started you out with.

All that happened just because you went to hyperdev.com.

Notice what you DIDN’T do.

  • You didn’t make an account.
  • You didn’t use Git. Or any version control, really.
  • You didn’t deal with name servers.
  • You didn’t sign up with a hosting provider.
  • You didn’t provision a server.
  • You didn’t install an operating system or a LAMP stack or Node or operating systems or anything.
  • You didn’t configure the server.
  • You didn’t figure out how to integrate and deploy your code.

You just went to hyperdev.com. Try it now!

What do you see in your browser?

Well, you’re seeing a basic IDE. There’s a little button that says SHOW and when you click on that, another browser window opens up showing you your website as it appears to the world. Notice that we invented a unique name for you.

Over there in the IDE, in the bottom left, you see some client side files. One of them is called index.html. You know what to do, right? Click on index.html and make a couple of changes to the text.

Now here’s something that is already a little bit magic… As you type changes into the IDE, without saving, those changes are deploying to your new web server and we’re refreshing the web browser for you, so those changes are appearing almost instantly, both in your browser and for anyone else on the internet visiting your URL.

Again, notice what you DIDN’T do:

  • You didn’t hit a “save” button.
  • You didn’t commit to Git.
  • You didn’t push.
  • You didn’t run a deployment script.
  • You didn’t restart the web server.
  • You didn’t refresh the page on your web browser.

You just typed some changes and BOOM they appeared.

OK, so far so good. That’s a little bit like jsFiddle or Stack Overflow snippets, right? NBD.

But let’s look around the IDE some more. In the top left, you see some server side files. These are actual code that actually runs on the actual (virtual) server that we’re running for you. It’s running node. If you go into the server.js file you see a bunch of JavaScript. Now change something there, and watch your window over on the right.

Magic again… the changes you are making to the server-side Javascript code are already deployed and they’re already showing up live in the web browser you’re pointing at your URL.

Literally every change you make is instantly saved, uploaded to the server, the server is restarted with the new code, and your browser is refreshed, all within half a second. So now your server-side code changes are instantly deployed, and once again, notice that you didn’t:

  • Save
  • Do Git incantations
  • Deploy
  • Buy and configure a continuous integration solution
  • Restart anything
  • Send any SIGHUPs

You just changed the code and it was already reflected on the live server.

Now you’re starting to get the idea of HyperDev. It’s just a SUPER FAST way to get running code up on the internet without dealing with any administrative headaches that are not related to your code.

Ok, now I think I know the next question you’re going to ask me.

“Wait a minute,” you’re going to ask. “If I’m not using Git, is this a single-developer solution?”

No. There’s an Invite button in the top left. You can use that to get a link that you give your friends. When they go to that link, they’ll be editing, live, with you, in the same documents. It’s a magical kind of team programming where everything shows up instantly, like Trello, or Google Docs. It is a magical thing to collaborate with a team of two or three or four people banging away on different parts of the code at the same time without a source control system. It’s remarkably productive; you can dive in and help each other or you can each work on different parts of the code.

“This doesn’t make sense. How is the code not permanently broken? You can’t just sync all our changes continuously!”

You’d be surprised just how well it does work, for most small teams and most simple programming projects. Listen, this is not the future of all software development. Professional software development teams will continue to use professional, robust tools like Git and that’s great. But it’s surprising how just having continuous merging and reliable Undo solves the “version control” problem for all kinds of simple coding problems. And it really does create an insanely addictive form of collaboration that supercharges your team productivity.

“What if I literally type ‘DELETE * FROM USERS’ on my way to typing ‘WHERE id=9283’, do I lose all my user data?”

Erm… yes. Don’t do that. This doesn’t come up that often, to be honest, and we’re going to add the world’s simplest “branch” feature so that optionally you can have a “dev” and “live” branch, but for now, yeah, you’d be surprised at how well this works in practice even though in theory it sounds terrifying.

“Does it have to be JavaScript?”

Right now the server we gave you is running Node so today it has to be JavaScript. We’ll add other languages soon.

“What can I do with my server?”

Anything you can do in Node. You can add any package you want just by editing package.json. So literally any working JavaScript you want to cut and paste from Stack Overflow is going to work fine.

“Is my server always up?”

If you don’t use it for a while, we’ll put your server to sleep, but it will never take more than a few seconds to restart. But yes for all intents and purposes, you can treat it like a reasonably reliably, 24/7 web server. This is still a beta so don’t ask me how many 9’s. You can have all the 8’s you want.

“Why would I trust my website to you? What if you go out of business?”

There’s nothing special about the container we gave you; it’s a generic VM running Node. There’s nothing special about the way we told you to write code; we do not give you special frameworks or libraries that will lock you in. Download your source code and host it anywhere and you’re back in business.

“How are you going to make money off of this?”

Aaaaaah! why do you care!

But seriously, the current plan is to have a free version for public / open source code you don’t mind sharing with the world. If you want private code, much like private repos, there will eventually be paid plans, and we’ll have corporate and enterprise versions. For now it’s all just a beta so don’t worry too much about that!

“What is the point of this Joel?”

As developers we have fantastic sets of amazing tools for building, creating, managing, testing, and deploying our source code. They’re powerful and can do anything you might need. But they’re usually too complex and too complicated for very simple projects. Useful little bits of code never get written because you dread the administration of setting up a new dev environment, source code repo, and server. New programmers and students are overwhelmed by the complexity of distributed version control when they’re still learning to write a while loop. Apps that might solve real problems never get written because of the friction of getting started.

Our theory here is that HyperDev can remove all the barriers to getting started and building useful things, and more great things will get built.

“What now?”

Really? Just go to HyperDev and start playing!

Need to hire a really great programmer? Want a job that doesn't drive you crazy? Visit the Joel on Software Job Board: Great software jobs, great people.

Read the whole story
davenelson
1292 days ago
reply
Atlanta, Georgia
Share this story
Delete
1 public comment
dmierkin
1289 days ago
reply
Could be nice

The Foghorn Requiem

1 Share

Foghorns have been a part of maritime history since the 19th century, providing much needed safety during inclement weather to mariners out at sea. Over time, their relevance has slowly reduced, with advanced navigational aids taking over the task of keeping ships and sailors safe.

The sounds of the foghorns are slowly dying out. Artists [Joshua Portway] and [Lise Autogena] put together the Foghorn Requiem, a project which culminated on June 22nd 2013, with an armada of more than 50 ships gathered on the North Sea to perform an ambitious musical score, marking the disappearance of the sound of the foghorn from the UK’s coastal landscape.

ship_layoutUp close, a foghorn is loud enough to knock you off your shoes. But over a distance, its sound takes on a soulful, melancholy quality, shaped by the terrain that it passes over. The artists tried capturing this quality of the foghorn, with help from composer [Orlando Gough] who created a special score for the performance. It brought together three Brass Bands – the Felling Band, the Westoe Band and the NASUWT Riverside Band, almost 50 ships at sea and the Souter Lighthouse Foghorn to play the score.

horn_preparation foghorn_controller

Each of the more than 50 vessels were outfitted with a custom built, tunable foghorn, actuated by a controller box consisting of a TI Launchpad with GPS, RTC, Xbee radio and relay modules. Because of the great distances between the ships and the audience on land, the devices needed to compensate for their relative position and adjust the time that they play the foghorn to offset for travel time of the sound. Each controller had its specific score saved on on-board storage, with all controllers synchronized to a common real time clock.

Marine radios were used to communicate with all the ships, informing them when to turn on the controllers, about 10 minutes from the start of the performance. Each device then used its GPS position to calculate its distance from the pre-programmed audience location, and computed how many seconds ahead it had to play its horn for the sound to be heard in time on the shore. The controllers then waited for a pre-programmed time to start playing their individual foghorn notes. The cool thing about the idea was that no communication was required – it was all based on time. Check out the video of the making of the Foghorn Requiem after the break, and here’s a link to the audio track of the final performance.

This is a slightly different approach compared to the Super Massive Musical Instrument that we posted about earlier.


Filed under: musical hacks
Read the whole story
davenelson
1292 days ago
reply
Atlanta, Georgia
Share this story
Delete

Peelander Z!

jwz
1 Comment
Read the whole story
davenelson
1316 days ago
reply
Peelander Z is are always fun
Atlanta, Georgia
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories