Every ten days or so, I share a quick digest of what I've been working on and reading. Here's the latest. More in the series here.
The script is called UFO, which stands for "ultra-low frequency oscillator", and it's powered by the International Space Station (ISS). It grabs data from the Where The ISS At? API, and maps the location of the ISS over the Earth to sound.
The ISS orbits Earth every 90 minutes or so, and so if you track its latitude and longitude then you’ll get a sine wave for the former, and a ramp wave for the latter.
The script generates a internal supersaw (ISS) drone composed by Jonathan Synder. The latitude of the ISS is mapped to filter cutoff and modulation depth. The longitude is mapped to reverb absorption. Finally, the detune parameter of the supersaw is mapped to the distance between the ISS and a location specified by the user.
After saying no to a request to appear at a conference that would have required me to fly to attend (see my mid-April notes for details on why), I was spurred to (a) send some money to Music Declares Emergency, and (b) create a set of "No sonification on a dead planet" stickers that I can give out at the upcoming ICAD conference. I've not done much sticker design before but I think these came out pretty great:
Over at Possible, The "Streetspace Invaders" report that I worked on has just been published! We did freedom-of-information requests to all of London's local authorities to find out where they're siting their electric vehicle chargers - in the roadway, or on the pavement where they obstruct pedestrians.
The responses revealed that despite government targets to prioritise pedestrian space and Disabled access, many have been placed on pavements. In fact, London councils have installed four times as many EV chargepoints on pavements than in converted parking spaces.
While EV chargepoints are a welcome sight on the street, eating away at the already-scarce space available to pedestrians is not good. Pavement installations can have a profound impact on the already-poor quality of the walking and wheeling environment for people with mobility challenges, particularly wheelchair users and those with visual impairments.
I did most of the data analysis and visualization for the report. You can see a few examples over on my blog.
As an alternative to carbon offsets, I really like the concept of a "future box", introduced to me by Kimberly Nicholas. Here's what she writes about it:
After I’ve reduced my own emissions as much as I can, one option I like for dealing with my remaining emissions is a “future box.” Every time you spend money on fossil fuels (fill up the car, buy a plane ticket), put an equivalent amount of money aside for your future box. This is money to invest in future reductions of your own emissions toward zero (like replacing a propane heater with an electric heat pump)….Given the vast undervaluation of the true cost of carbon today, offsets are usually too cheap. Doubling the cost of gas and flights is much closer to the true social price, meaning you will spend more money toward a worthy cause than you would through an offset, and you’re also more likely to reconsider what is truly necessary carbon spending.
Finally, in an occurrence that is fun and not entirely unlike the start of an alien invasion movie,Nasa researchers have recorded weird sounds in the stratosphere that can't be explained.
The sounds are too low for humans to hear them. But if you speed them up to increase the pitch (a sonification technique called audification) then they apparently sound like "muffled, staticky whispers".
My fav bit is the quote from one of the researchers:
"The fact that there’s mysterious sounds that I don’t understand is troubling, but it’s not like a revelation. It’s funny to speak with folks like you who are like, ‘Wait, what? You’re hearing stuff?’ And no, we don’t know what it is.”
That's it for today! A brief scheduling note - I'm going to be taking a holiday in June that involves three weeks of train travel across Europe. To ensure these coming three weeks actually feel like a holiday, I'm going to skip the next couple of editions of notes. Enjoy having a little less to read, and expect to hear from me again towards the end of June.