Skip to main content

The Talking Skyscraper

Have you ever been at the construction-site of a high-rise and experienced the sound-cocktail of machines, colliding materials, the blasting boom-boxes, shouting workers? And have you then returned to the same place years later; when the building is finished? Where are the echoes of these past sounds while you wait at the reception? What do you experience during an awkward elevator-ride? People with blank stares, no talking, maybe some music... but nothing, absolutely nothing audible from the past. Now have a closer look. See the scratches at the wall, maybe a sneaky footprint in the concrete behind an emergency-exit, a chipped wooden frame? Static traces from the past. Petrified life.
And now imagine a new construction-technique being introduced. Let some walls be written by massive 3D-printers, 'writing' threads of concrete layer by layer in quick scanning motion with preprogrammed perfection. All neat, all nice. And then modify the 3D-printer. You pick up the sound of the environment and send it to the nozzle of the printer. The sound acoustically modulates the thickness of the concrete-threads. The barely visible high-frequency modulation is similar to the modulated grooves in your beloved vinyl-records at home. Maybe a bit more pronounced. These ripples in the wall will persist once the concrete is dry and you could play back the record of past life with an appropriate scanner moving line by line across the wall and reading out the acoustic imprint.
Let's do it.
We will live in talking skyscrapers.

(inspired by exchanges with Norbert Palz about artistic experiments of Francoise Roche)


Popular posts from this blog

Academics should be blogging? No.

"blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now" The London School of Economics and Political Science states in one of their, yes, Blogs . It is wrong. The arguments just seem so right: "faster communication of scientific results", "rapid interaction with colleagues" "responsibility to give back results to the public". All nice, all cuddly and warm, all good. But wrong. It might be true for scientoid babble. But this is not how science works.  Scientists usually follow scientific methods to obtain results. They devise, for example, experiments to measure a quantity while keeping the boundary-conditions in a defined range. They do discuss their aims, problems, techniques, preliminary results with colleagues - they talk about deviations and errors, successes and failures. But they don't do that wikipedia-style by asking anybody for an opinion . Scientific discussion needs a set

My guinea pig wants beer!

Rather involuntary train rides (especially long ones, going to boring places for a boring event) are good for updates on some thoughts lingering in the lower levels of the brain-at-ease. My latest trip (from Berlin to Bonn) unearthed the never-ending squabble about the elusive 'free will'. Neuroscientists make headlines proving with alacrity the absence of free will by experimenting with brain-signals that precede the apparent willful act - by as much as seven seconds! Measuring brain-activity way before the human guinea pig actually presses a button with whatever hand or finger he desires, they predict with breathtaking reproducibility the choice to be made. So what? Is that the end of free will? I am afraid that those neuroscientists would accept only non-predictability as a definite sign of free will. But non-predictability results from two possible scenarios: a) a random event (without a cause) b) an event triggered by something outside of the system (but caused).

No theory - no money!

A neuroscientist I was talking to recently complained that the Higgs-research,even the Neutrino-fluke at CERN is getting humungous funding while neuroscience is struggling for support at a much more modest level. This, despite the undisputed fact that understanding our brain, and ultimately ourselves, is the most exciting challenge around. Henry Markram of EPFL in Switzerland   is one of the guys aiming for big, big funding to simulate the complete brain. After founding the brain institute and developing methods to analyze and then reconstruct elements of the brain in a supercomputer he now applies for 1.5 Billion Euro in EU-funding for the 'flagship-projects' of Blue Brain -and many believe his project is simply too big to fail. Some call the project daring, others audacious. It is one of the so very few really expensive life-science endeavours. Why aren't there more like that around? Why do we seem to accept the bills for monstrous physics experiments more easily? Is