Project blog

Posted on Thu 26 May 2016


Even homing pigeons lose their way sometimes

In geomagnetic storms that is. These storms are the cause of the aurora, yet also have the ability to wreak havoc on our technology and affect the navigational ability of migratory animals. A curious phenomenon indeed.

Posted by

Rosie Cooke

Rosie Cooke

Rosie was the Pervasive Media Studio Assistant between 2015-2017.

Project

Communicating Science Residency

With media attention on solar flares and their effects on positive events (the northern lights) or predicted negative events (technological disruption), Helen White joined the Pervasive Media Studio in January 2013 to embark…

In geomagnetic storms that is. These storms are the cause of the aurora, yet also have the ability to wreak havoc on our technology and affect the navigational ability of migratory animals. A curious phenomenon indeed.

Another two weeks have flown by and my research into the sun-earth interaction continues. I’ve found some beautifully descriptive explanations of what happens when the solar wind meets with the earth’s magnetosphere, and how the charged particles in the wind interact with earth’s atmosphere to create the aurora. These are helping me think about the behaviour of my data and are acting as a useful visual reference to the otherwise invisible. A picture paints a thousand words, especially after weeks of reading.

tiny turbulent swirls

wobbling

creating waves like the ocean

stretching an elastic band

snapping back

plucking a harp string

brushing past

capturing

spiralling

collision

excitement

glow

solar wind data visualisation

As a way to begin the process of data visualisation, myself and Dan fed solar wind speed levels into an LED strip so we could observe the variances of glow that could be achieved. Whilst this didn’t produce anything particularly dynamic, it was useful to start this process in a simple way.

We also stepped up my earlier magnetism experiment, testing the potential of switching an electromagnet quickly on and off to create a pulsing magnetic field, which in turn would create an incidental sound or “chime” to indicate a change in my data levels. We discovered that the magnet had a very definite on/off rather than a fluctuating field, which, although disappointing, would have to become a behaviour informing any design outcome.

This week has also seen an exciting day of experimentation and collaboration with Rob Hifle and Steve Bell from the award-winning design and direction agency BDH. They produced the stunning solar graphics for BBC2’s Wonders of the Universe and have a wealth of source material for visualising ejections from the sun and the resulting space weather, and we wanted to see if these films could be experienced more physically through projection. (Special thanks to Nick at Farm Studio)

projection testing with BDH

Light and movement are both key to the sampling and thinking I’ve been doing so far and the projected image fulfilled both of these desires, and had a presence that was much more visceral and immersive.

I ended the week with a visit to Light Show at the Hayward Gallery, finding myself visually stimulated and involved in light and colour experiences beyond any that I’ve experienced before.

anthony mccall You and I, Horizontal (2005)

It was fascinating to watch people interacting with these installations, contemplating, slowing down, taking time to understand what it was they were looking at. This would be a very powerful tool in science communication.

It’s no coincidence that I mentioned the pigeons earlier as it’s not entirely clear at the moment which direction my work is going to take. But I’m looking forward to another exciting couple of weeks of discovery.


Project blog by Rosie Cooke

Posted on Thu 26 May 2016

A solar 'superstorm' is coming and we'll only get 30-minute warning”, said a press release on the 7th February from the Royal Academy of Engineering, after analysing the UK’s preparedness for a solar…

Project blog by Rosie Cooke

Posted on Thu 26 May 2016

Two more weeks into my residency and I find myself gazing at the sun, experimenting with sound, considering my prototype, and a bit more science of course.