Tag Archives: data visualisation

Does IBM’s ‘Think’ Make You Think

Interesting article in the New York Times about the current installation at the Lincoln Center by IBM. It recognises IBM as a “corporation exploring the most complex human systems with the most advanced technology” but raises the question about whether the exhibition really helps us understand technology or the phenomena it adresses?

View the article.

Quasar Data Animation Update

The linked file below is another version of the animation reported in the post entitled “Prototype Animation Anticipating Data from BCO” on the 16th February last. In this case however the data that drives the animation of the same circle is the actual data from an online archive of values representing the quasar’s behaviour as captured in studies of the object from various locations on earth.

Black Hole Animation

The data driving the animation is a small selection of values that have been collected from the archive and processed through a combination of functions and regular expressions. In this example there are in total 28 keyframes driving the motion. No consideration has been given yet to the aesthetics or function of the animation. Developments in relation to this will be posted in due course.

Stripping Text From Quasar DAT Files

Had some success today with stripping out floating point values from the DAT text files that BCO provided. The values are extracted through two functions. The first sets a patterns to find a specific value in the DAT file such as “10.00” and then does a second search to get another value in a offset column of text in a row marked by the value “10.00”. When the value is identified it is passed into an array. The second function then does the straightforward work of clearing the value of white space. The next stage is now to normalise this value  so it can be used as an animation key as described in, “Prototype Animation Anticipating Data from BCO” posted on 16th Feb last.

One unforeseeable issue that came up was related to the quantity of data. Pulling in text information dynamically to AS3 is typically unproblematic but in this case the smallest text file in the batch is42mb; other files are in excess of 213mb. An intermediate step may be required to copy out specific values from these raw files and generate new text files that are then passed to AS3.

A second issue is that when a selection of values is taken from the text file, that is one that represents the brightness value for a certain radius of pixels in the image from the telescope , there are in the smallest text file 21,511 values that represent changes in light readings from March to May 2008. I may therefore have to consider how to manage these values. Based on a very loose estimate of the data I have access to at present this would provide me with approx. half of one million keyframes generated from studies of quasars recorded over a period of one calendar year.

Before I go there I want to now invest some time with what I will do visually with the data. I intend soon return to looking at processes that will allow me to draw in real time with the information and extend earlier investigations as demonstrated in ‘Family Portrait’ (see post entitled “Real time Portraits” from 7th Feb last)

Online Access to Quasar Data

Just received online access today to the data from Blackrock Castle. I have been developing some functions that use regular expressions to filter out irrelevant information in the data so I can access the physical changes in light detected throught the telescope. I have run in to some problems with this and additional work will need to be done before I can begin considering the  frontend visuals that will be driven by these values. Happy now to have the real information to work with and I will begin testing out the regExpessions on the actual data in the coming days.

Entity 0716 714

0716 714  are the spatial coordinates of the black hole that will form the focus of my attention with respect to the current practical experimentation. I met again yesterday with Alan Gilsinan at Blackrock Castle Observatory (BCO). The purpose of this meeting was to gain some understanding  of:

  1. the entities that are currently within the scope of the observatory’s studies;
  2. where these entities are located;
  3. specific data that BCO studies and why that data might be interesting from a scientific perspective;
  4. what the data represents
  5. what form the data is encoded or formatted (decimal, octal, etc)

The meeting lasted for about two hours and many of the questions above were clarified. Needless to say the issues are so complex that clarification really is used here in a relative sense. For example when one asks: “where is this object?”, because of the field of study the answer is framed not only in spatial terms but also in time. So while the object above can be referenced by a particular co-ordinate system such as the ‘equatorial coordinate system’ with Declination (Dec) and Right Ascension (RA) values it is also located back in time, estimated at 15 billion light years. Therefore this object while located outside our own galaxy may not exist in current time.

While there is an uncountable number of entities in space it is estimated that there are 100,000 entities that are currently of interest to the astronomical community worldwide. With respect to BCO there are approx. 20 objects that consume their attention and their particular interest is in quasars which are specific type of black hole, possibly super massive black holes. The categorisation is based not on the material or physical attributes of a black hole per se but its orientation to the observer. In this way a ‘normal’ quasar is defined by a viewpoint that is not obscured by the material being swept into the centre of the black hole but one that looks directly through  its centre from a perpendicular direction to the acceleration disk – the spinning donut of matter some of which is sucked in and destroyed by the black hole. The resulting energy that is produced by this ‘proposed’ activity is emitted outwards in opposite poles from the centre of the black hole; these projections of energy, sometimes referred to as ‘cosmic jets’ , when pointing directly towards the observer, register as a flickering light source. Astronomers at BCO observe these changing light energy values in the interest of discovering what the behaviour might infer.

The data that has been accumulated and processed in BCO is made available to this art project through a dot DAT text format. The data that is studied at the observatory comes from various scientific centres around the world. There is therefore a potential time lag of days to months between the recording of information via a telescope and me receiving the information for use in the art project. This is due to the enormous quantities of information being processed which result in terabytes of data that is then filtered and evaluated. The information that I am currently accessing, thanks to Alan and Niall, represents fluctuations in the light values being emitted from the above quasar.

The data itself is released to me in text format and the numeric values are encoded in 16bit (14bit when unpacked) grayscale spectrum values. Before this information is useful with respect to the artwork a number of filtering operations must be applied in order to extract the ‘interesting’ values that will be used to drive events within the interactive art work. These values must then be normalised so they can be utilised practically as events or keys for animation. While I  have already done some work on this using dummy data (see post on 16th Feb entitled ‘Prototype Animation Anticipating Data from BCO’) more detailed work will need to be done to filter and access relevant information in the dot DAT files.

Prototype Animation Anticipating Data from BCO

The animation in the link below is a pre-prototype established for the meeting this coming Friday in Blackrock Castle Observatory (BCO).

The animation was created in anticipation of the type of data that might be made available via the telescope at BCO. The information Alan Giltinan showed me on the 6th Feb was a text file containing digits formatted in clusters of 4 values as demonstrated in the linked file. I hope that in the meeting this week I can clarify issues specifically in relation to: the coordinates of the star, black hole or quasar; what the registered values represent specifically; the format of the data itself, that is, decimal, octal, etc..
The purpose of the animation is to anticpate some of the answers to these questions and allow ajustments to be made rapidly on-site in AS3 without taking up too much of Alan’s time.

Black Hole Data Animation

Data Readings from Black Holes

Had a very intersting visit to Blackrock Castle Observatory last Friday where I met Niall Smith, Head of Research at CIT, and Alan Giltinan a researcher at the observatory. Niall kindly provided an eye opening tour of the castle which had changed dramatically since I was there last (4-5 years back).

The week before last I bumped into Eva Norris a researcher in the Physics Department who I hadn’t seen since she’d taken up a new office space several years back. Got talking about postgraduate study and she mentioned what she and others at BCO were working on. This conversation led to a meeting with Niall which in turn led to last Friday’s visit to the castle. There is an arrangement now for a second visit to see what live data I can get from the telescope and route into an art work.

This is pretty exciting material including energy that folds into a black hole and gets pushed back out from its centre; the telescope picks this up as a fluctuating light value. This is just one of a number of sources of data that could become a driver of behaviours in some of the art works I am beginning to put together now. Tuesday 16th or Friday 19th I will return to the castle to do a mornings work with Alan and see how I can get the data formatted so I can use it in AS3, PHP or Javascript.

Mike Punt mentioned before that important things can happen when you meet someone by chance in a corridor or on a stairwell. This seems to be one of those situations.