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Sampling sea and riverbeds around Fukushima Nuclear Power plant

We have put together a valuable set of sediment samples from riverbeds, estuaries and seabed nearshore in the Tohoku region of Japan, mostly in the vicinity of the Fuksuhima Daiichi Nuclear power plant. Half of the samples have been taken before the Typhoon VongFong, the other half during the Typhoon VongFong (Oct 13th 2014 over Tohoku region).  The goal is to understand the motion of sediments from land to sea using radioactive tracers, in other words “make a map of seabed radioactivity around the Fukushima Power Plant“. Here a rough analog simulation – and here an excellent scientific paper explaining how radioactivity “travels” seasonally that we try to extend – connecting land / river to sea data. We do not have the results / measurements of Cesium of our samples yet, hopefully before the end of 2014.

Video by Philippe Couture

The instrument we use is a “Micro Rolling Trawler” that we developed that captures only a few millimeters of surface (recent) sediments. That allows us to have a “snapshot” of the seabed surface.

Sampling river and sea bed sediment with radioactive tracers from Fukushima Mapping Radioactivity in riverbeds and seabeds around Fukushima power plant Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant 20141009 Sediments Samples
Photos by Julie Nagai

All the data we collect is publicly available for free. We will study mostly Cesium. If you are interested in these samples to analyse other isotopes, we would be very happy to share with you free of charge as long as you share publicly the data / results. Please get in touch :

Many thanks to Julie Nagai, Philippe Couture, Jun Kamei, Shinya & Angela Saeki, Dr Olivier Evrard, Kenichi Kawamura, Prof Hiroshi Kainuma, Umilabo, Soness Stevens, Rohini Karen Deblaise, Dean Newcombe, Safecast Joe Moross, Prof Yoshida of Tohoku University, Christina Moorehead, Jay Klaphake, Kaori Hilton, Maria Ichizawa, Takuro Mizuta, Hiroshi Nomura, Katagiri Family, Zhiruo Gao, Yoshiko Toyama, Toby Marshall and all those who supported our efforts. You can see where we drove with Safecast bGeigieNano (Oct 7, Oct 8, Oct 13, Oct 14)  or as one big map.

More soon…

Cute wooden hut for the elderly fair

Sometimes I really enjoy taking manual work. Especially it is for a good cause, and to help friends. I love woodwork, and when Yanki Lee, of Hong Kong Design Institute DESIS Lab proposed me the opportunity to build their fair booth at the Senior Expo Asia, I was excited. Also because I had already worked with them on a Social Architecture workshop and I just love working with this team :)

Wooden Hut for Hong Kong Design Institute
It was just a line drawing a few days ago…

And after 3 versions became a final design.

Asia senior expo wooden hut HKDI DESIS
Followed a lot of fresh dust in my shop over the week end :)

Asia senior expo wooden hut HKDI DESIS
Take an empty fair space…

Asia senior expo wooden hut HKDI DESIS
Assemble the pieces…

Asia senior expo wooden hut HKDI DESIS
And there you go!

Asia senior expo wooden hut HKDI DESIS
It is not the most intricate carpentry work I have done but it was really fun and fast. Special thanks to Guillaume Dupont for his precious help.

Tomorrow morning, many senior citizens will come and enjoy our booth. I like the space we have created is intimate yet easily readable, you can access it with a wheel chair as it’s got no step, it is wood : warm and so different from other’s booth where it’s all plastic and shiny. The fair will not last for long, only 3 days! If you want the wood, let me know – and if you do, be ready to wrestle with bad quality screws – they are easy to screw in, they easily brake when screwed out. The take down will happen Thursdy July 3rd, from 19:00. Come with a van and email me to coordinate.

Check out the really cool content of the booth too ! The very interesting work of these designers folks creative about the ageing society :



The Future of Maker Space a “Seeing Space” ?


What if we designed a new kind of “maker space” — a space that isn’t just for putting pieces together, but also for seeing and understanding a project’s behaviour in powerful ways?

– seeing inside
– seeing across time
– seeing across possibilities

“I think people need to work in a space that moves them away from the kinds of non-scientific thinking that you do when you can’t see what you’re doing — moves them away from blindly following recipes, from superstitions and rules of thumb — and moves them towards deeply understanding what they’re doing, inventing new things, discovering new things, contributing back to the global pool of human knowledge.”

Presented at the EG conference on May 2, 2014.
Art by David Hellman.

Bret Victor —

I really enjoyed watching this brilliant video by Bret Victor. Thanks Stewart McKenzie for sharing this on the Hong Kong HackJam group on facebook.  I have been thinking a lot about these “issues” because I build robots (and typically the workshop building and buy the tools too). For the moment, my robots are pretty dumb, but I imagine the day they “become smarter”  it will become increasingly difficult to understand them, especially if they operate far from sight, in the ocean. Hopefully the dashboard does not have to be a massive control room, but maybe just a few screen (a dashboard), or something more immersive that -hopefully- many people could afford – because we ought to make a fleet!

Recently I started teaching to young kids about robotics, hacking, environmental sensing. We started building a workbench, and just a few days ago  the sensor part of the robot. In our last class the students were divided in 2 teams, one is “electro-mechanics”, the other is “electronics and software”. I insisted we have a 3rd group that would be “environment and protocol” but no kid wanted to join. Because they perceived that the environment and protocol is not a “thing”. In fact the environment is the “thing” we work in. It determines, it is the conditions of all the experiments and cannot be overlooked.

I believe most of what is described in this video to exist in many places where people do “experimental physics“. I was very fortunate to be involved in such environment where we study things by “seeing” them. But I must stress that we SENSE more than we SEE. Seeing is merely just one of the way we document the experiments we conduct. In fact putting the emphasis and naming the whole system a “seeing space” is rather misleading I feel. I believe we have passed the “society of the spectacle”, and we are in the making of the “sensing” (with the internet of things), and perhaps one day “thinking” and “feeling” society. But that’s another debate.

The aesthetics of a sensing space

I was also lucky to be the assistant of Usman Haque and Adam Somlai Fisher years ago in the making of Reconfigurable house / Scattered house in London.

Contrary to what Bret Victor suggested, the reconfigurable house was aimed to be cheap. I really want to see a “Seeing space” made with low cost HD webcams, because hey, they do exist very much. The reconfigurable house was made with hundreds of extremely cheap sensors hacked out of toys. The overall aesthetics was perhaps a “vibrant and healthy mess” but I believe that the aesthetics of the space were inviting to make and experiment / sense.

I have seen several sterile lab spaces and unproductive messy hackerspaces but I claim these are nothing but caricatures. Some tidy labs and messy hackerspace do awesome work, the opposite also exist. I feel the video presents a space that is a little bit too tidy and expensive to be “truly” creative. If you have to be too careful when you make a move, it’s hard to “move fast and break things“. But maybe it was required to “sell” the project – or make newbies / investors feel more comfortable about the whole project – I would understand. It is hard to find that balance of tidiness and transient creative energy but I believe it is also our responsibility and discipline to share the aesthetics that most likely will help science emerge from tinkering. Thanks Bret Victor. I look forward to see your sensing space come to life :)


20130510 Amazing day at the New Lab, Brooklyn Navy Yard

Brooklyn Navy Yard
I wasn’t too sure what I was getting into when I approached this building.
Well it is called the “Brooklyn Navy Yard“, by the water, just opposite of Manhattan. My friend Architect Mitchell Joachim told me there would be a ton of good people there…

View Larger Map

Brooklyn Navy Yard
Many important people were there! Here’s the menu – I arrived late and missed most of them. Super New York VIP I guarantee.

They were discussing how this was like that :

That today it is like that :

And that in about 2 years it should be like that :

Wow !

120227 Mind Map for website

They want to turn this abandoned shipyard into a nexus of design, manufacturing, education, community, freelance economy – coworking space, incubator etc… WOWOWOWOW! The people in charge of this transformation are Macro-Sea, check them out. I invite you read the New York Times article if you want to know more about the politics of it.

And the people already installed in the place make an impressive group :

Yeah, I know, we are moving to Hong Kong, but I am super excited knowing that a home for Protei might be under construction in New York ;) Gabriella is from here and we dream of being allowed using a table there for now :)

Brooklyn Navy Yard
The New Lab has this huge terrace…

Brooklyn Navy Yard Drydock
And just by the future building there is this large dry dock.

Hunter Daniel and Protei-003 "Ocean Blimp"
I cannot help but dreaming how we could build very large “Ocean Zeppelin” in there ! Above Protei_003 I built in New Orleans in 2010, model is Hunter Daniels.

NewLab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard
This is a view of the future NewLab from the current NewLab. Manhattan is just there.

Brooklyn Navy Yard
How about launching new ship businesses?

Nature has no rules

I was daydreaming the other day and I was fascinated how we, as human, try to make sense of it all.
Over time we’ve constantly attempted to understand the underlying mechanisms of the universe, trying to decipher what is true at every scale, from gravity to relativity, quantic, experimental physics…  I had this short sentence flying around in my mind, and I could not find it anywhere on the internet. So it would be a big surprise, but I might have come up with this simple axiom a while ago (2008 is the first time I posted this on facebook as my favorite quote) :

Nature has no rule


What I love about this axiom, is that it temporarily brings peace between science and faith. Because nature can neither be god nor be explained by science. It fundamentally denies science or philosophy the capacity to comprehend nature even through it’s most elaborate  chaos theory, versions of the infinite, leaves skepticism nothing to grip. It talks about something that is beyond  understanding, that is not sacred nor knowable. It is the infuriating declaration of peace, the eternal victory of nature on humans. We are not the system, there was no system before us and won’t be any system after us. This may contribute to a more complete definition of what nature is, that is neither a finite object nor describable context. We’ll never fully understand “it”.

It is 4:07AM, I’m in the middle of the Indian Ocean sleeping on the aft of the MV Explorer en route for Kochi, India. Maybe I spent too much time on this ship and I am loosing my mind a little, ha. I would love to write more about this, so I need you to prove me wrong. Seriously. Do it. :)

Urban Vascularisation

Paths through New York City
Eric Fischer, New York, “Paths through cities”

The Geotaggers' World Atlas #55: Taipei
Eric Fischer, Taipei, “Geotaggers World Atlas”

I recently came across these images of “living cities”, and it struck me how much they are similar looking to plastinated vascular (blood) systems.


Francois Lenoir/Reuters

And the word that came to my mind was “urban vascularisation” or how the city is a living organism that conduct flows, evolves and can be modified.

Luigi Colani Biocity

At this stage it would be hard to avoid mentioning Luigi Colani “Biocity”, a city that is supposed to be built and function like a human body (thanks to Matthew Plummer-Fernandez for the ref).

I connect this to a current research I am excited to see develop : a robotic traffic light system for Nairobi Kenya, spear-headed by the *IHub_ and Jessica Colaco. it is really interesting to see how the radical modification of a “simple” traffic controller could re-orient “life” within the city “vessels”. This interest came from research notes of “network growth” I have been making recently.

A traffic jam in Nairobi. iHUb is developing a system that will use lights to control traffic flow. Photo/File

As I posted this in social media, more interesting references came from Matthew Plummer-FernandezOriginal article (not accessible to non-subscribers), re-post by Wired, my pdf archive.


“A team of Japanese and British researchers observed that the slime mold connected itself to scattered food sources in a design that was nearly identical to Tokyo’s rail system. Atsushi Tero from Hokkaido University in Japan, along with colleagues elsewhere in Japan and the United Kingdom, placed oat flakes on a wet surface in locations that corresponded to the cities surrounding Tokyo, and allowed the Physarum polycephalum mold to grow outwards from the center. They watched the slime mold self-organize, spread out, and form a network that was comparable in efficiency, reliability, and cost to the real-world infrastructure of Tokyo’s train network.”

In the comment of this article  “JMillsPaysBills” suggests this article loosed in relevancy because the actual rail system and the slime mold are not placed side by side to be compared. So I made this graphic underneath. On the left it is the experiment with slime mold, on the right it is my maps overlays.

Original maps :  Japan Rail Pass map and Tokyo Rail Network.

“Charley” also commented :
“This article’s assumption is that that city populations are static and oat flakes can be a stand­ing for those static cities in this model. Then slime mold can be used to predict mass transportation links between these cities.
In practice, the situation often is reversed. Mass transportation is built, and then cities expand at the nodes of that transportation system.”

I think it works both ways : cities expand from transportation AND train stations are decided upon the location of existing settlements.

My friend Nick Kaufmann, recommended me this interesting reading “Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization” by Richard Sennett.
“Flesh and Stone is a new history of the city in Western civilization, one that tells the story of urban life through bodily experience. It is a story of the deepest parts of life – how women and men moved in public and private spaces, what they saw and heard, the smells that assailed their noses, where they are, how they dressed, the mores of bathing and of making love – all in the spaces of the city from ancient Athens to modern New York.

Network Growth Programming

Physical Social Network Programming

I have been continuing to research how physical social networks (made with people and strings) can be grown. In addition of the 7 basic network topologies – which I consider now as only a subset on network growth “instruction”- I listed 4 larger ensembles :

  • Behavioural Programming: Guiding people to form 1) Line, 2) Mesh, 3) Fully connected, 4) form groups.
  • Visual Programming: Asking a group of connected individuals to conform to prescribed geometrical figures.
  • Numerical Programming: Giving each single individual a set of simple instructions to apply regardless of other dynamics, and let these “naturally” interact.
  • Entropy: After having conducted these previous experiments, giving participants the instruction to do whatever they want with the string.

I have also updated the instruction set of instructions for the “Behavioural programming” here :

Warm up
Walk random patterns eyes open
Run random patterns with eyes open
Walk random patterns eyes closed
Run random patterns with eyes closed
Stand up still eyes open, look at others
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others
Stand up still eyes open, stand up on one leg
Stand up on one leg, close one eye. Close the second eye.
Spin in one direction until you get dizzy.
Spin the other direction until you cancel the dizziness.
Stand up still eyes open, look at others
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others

Linear Network (Line)
_ I pull one line and connect everybody.
Walk random patterns eyes closed
Run random patterns with eyes closed
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others
Stand up still eyes open, look at others

Mesh Network (Mesh)
_ I cut the line, disconnecting some, reconnecting others in a mesh.
Walk random patterns eyes closed
Run random patterns with eyes closed
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others
Stand up still eyes open, look at others

Fully Connected Network (Fully Connected)
_ I each and everyone.
Walk random patterns eyes closed
Run random patterns with eyes closed
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others
Stand up still eyes open, look at others

Community building (Segregation)
How do you feel?
We went through 3 different types of network topologies :
1) a line network
2) a mesh network
3) a fully connected network
Which one did you prefer / dislike? Why?
What defines a community? Why?
Now I will get back to giving a few more instructions.
_ Pause.
Stand up still eyes closed, feel others
Feel others with the strings.
Which strings do you like most? Which string would you rather drop.
Keep the strings you like, drop the strings you don’t feel comfortable holding.
Eyes closed, keep holding the strings, but now move freely, wherever you want to go.
When you feel you are in the right place, stop. Take your time.
When I will see more than half of you standing still, this will be the end of this part of the experiment.
_ Pause.
How do you feel?
What did you learn?
What did we learn as a group?
How could push this experiment further?

I will continue this research further later – that was just a research note – and a cool poster coming out of it :) Original files here (.ai .pdf .jpg). Do you know of any interesting references / books / pdfs about network growth / evolution / topologies? Thanks!


WEA - for Strathmore Uni, Nairobi

World Environment Action (WEA)
The world leaders cannot agree, we need to take actions. We do 3 things :
1 – a global map conecting environmental reports to people taking action.
2 – a project managment interface
3 – a visual forum to imagine what the World Environment Organization (WEO) could be. Solving one problem at the time together. Take action!

Unreasonable at Sea

Gabriella Levine and Cesar Harada have been selected to participate to the Unreasonable at sea for the Protei project.
Please watch the video above and you will understand why we are excited to be part of this great adventure. For several months on the sea, we will be in the company of some of the world most forward thinking entrepreneurs that will be our mentors. This is an immense honor for me and for the Protei Project and we will document this journey as well as possible to share this incredible privilege with the greatest number. You can see our dates of the travels and where we will stop on my time line.

View Unreasonnable at Sea in a larger map

Depart January 9 17:00
Arrive January 15 08:00
Depart January 16 20:00
Arrive January 27 08:00
Depart January 28 23:00
Arrive January 30 08:00
Depart January 31 20:00
Arrive February 3 08:00
Depart February 4 20:00
Arrive February 7 08:00
Depart February 8 20:00
Arrive February 12 08:00
Depart February 18 16:00
Arrive February 20 08:00
Depart February 21 20:00
Arrive February 25 08:00
Depart March 1 20:00
Arrive March 6 08:00
Depart March 11 20:00
Arrive March 18 08:00
Depart March 18 20:00
Arrive March 25 08:00
Depart March 30 20:00
Arrive April 6 08:00
Depart April 10 20:00
Arrive April 18 08:00
Depart April 21 20:00
Arrive April 25 08:00


Oakland day 1

Openet Logo

An internet owned and moderated by people. Not belonging to companies, nor militaries, nor states. The world needs openet for freedom and security. Many similar projects exist, Openet tries to put them together, elaborate a standard.  Collaborate.

International Ocean Station
We are a group of passionate inventors and scientists trying to put together the International_Ocean_Station as an open-source hardware and software mobile laboratory. May it be ocean exploration, pollution and climate study, sustainable aquaculture, life-saving architecture, communication infrastructure etc. We are inventing an entire novel architecture family, with a hands-on approach.

Social Geometry / Architecture of Play

Social Geometry Experiment 2008/11/13
Royal College of Arts, London, UK. About 7 people.

Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. About 10 people.

linear network
CCCB, Barcelona, Spain. About 35 people.

In the last years I have been exploring the relation between social networks and architecture. Or how we can embody social networks to understand them better, and why not generate a new type of architecture that would live through these changes and improve human interactions. I conducted these groups experiments

  • outside of the Royal College of Art, in Hyde Park, London UK.
  • Miller Galery at Carneggie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA
  • CCCB Barcelona, Spain.
  • Workshop on “Environmental Governance,” Design & Environment, Goldsmiths University, London UK.
  • And I am looking for new groups of people interested in exploring this in different cultural contexts.


The fact is that the therm social Geometry has been in used since 1976 by the American Prof. of Social Science Donald Black in the book “The Behavior of Law”. A well written and concise wikipedia article presents the matter. Some attribute the origins of Social Geometry to the works of Georg Simmel , Emile Durkheim or Pierre Bourdieu. However D. Black approach seems to take into account clear variables that are “usable” more directly in the generation of physical social networks :
  • horizontal/morphological (the extent and frequency of interaction among participants)
  • vertical (the unequal distribution of resources)
  • corporate (the degree of organization, or of integration of individuals into organizations)
  • cultural (the amount and frequency of symbolic expressions)
  • and normative (the extent of previously being the target of social control)

Extending the legacy

Black refers to this multi-dimensional amalgam as “social space“. My personal interest is to temporarily dissolve these “social controllers” and let them re-emerge and reconfigure in large-scale choreographic experiments, in the form of ephemeral architecture, that I call “Architecture of Play.

architecture-of-play01 architecture-of-play02 architecture-of-play03architecture-of-play04 architecture-of-play05

In the illustration above, you can see different stages to the generation of a social network :

  1. randomly moving disconnected individuals
  2. Linear network : one line connecting all actors.
  3. Branched Network
  4. Complex Network
  5. Voronoi Cells
  6. Arches
  7. Membranes

And as constructed model :

random  branched network complex network making of approximate voronoi cells voronoi cells -> arches voronoi cells -> arches-nb Arches, crystalizing social networks voronoi cells -> arches Architecture of play, arches in construction Architecture of play, arches in construction architecture of play in the garden Architecture of Play

Essentially we’re doing the same thing as the video above, Delauney triangulation :

A simple set of instruction to generate complex behaviors and networks

instructions social geometry

These were the simple choreographic instructions I would give to the group. Updated instructions here.

Network Topography & Topologies (computer Sciences)

Network Topologies

The study of network topology recognises eight basic topologies:[5]

  • Point-to-point
  • Bus
  • Star
  • Ring or circular
  • Mesh
  • Tree
  • Hybrid
  • Daisy chain
But every single topology can be arranged in a way that tells a totally different story in the context of human architecture.
6 module structure, floating garden research

Complexity, Function & Play

Needless is to say that networks are not formed arbitrarily.
The exemple below is a neural network.  On the left : INPUTS, on the right : a single OUTPUT.

Neural Network

Where more complex networks might provide multiple answers simultaneously :


And this is an network of human contributors to a wikipedia article : many to one.

Gloabl Warming WIki Network

This is the physical reality of our information network, the internet:

Cisco Internet map

And this how the internet sees itself, as data nodes:
Map of the Internet

In fact the best resource I found to be up to date about visualisation of complex network is

Visual Complexity

Formation, growth, Reconfiguration, Resilience and Decay

Based on the 7 basic network topologies, I made some sketches of network growth. Really rough at this stage :

This is how I assigned the colours to different network topologies.

I designed 7 main ways of giving instructions to have people develop specified network topologies:

Physical Social Network Programming


Social network growth ” “5 years of Linux kernel development in Git” – Teaser”

The Connected States of America, MIT SenseableCityLab :

TrashTrack, MIT Senseable City Lab:

Non-human networks (visual inspiration)

Neural growth :

Barabassi Lab

Controlability of Complex Networks, Mauro Martino

Self Organisation :

Ensembles growth :

Network Growth animation :

Characterisation of Node (people) & Connections (lines)

  • Male / Female
  • Young / Old
  • Big / small
  • White / black / other
  • variations in activity
  • variation in “attractiveness”
  • variation in character : shy / outgoing
  • Long / short
  • Tensed / loose
  • stiff / elastic
  • White / coloured / bright
  • Immaterial / Material
  • Soft / hard
Small to Big
  • bathroom {closed}
  • bedroom
  • dinner room / kitchen
  • living room
  • terrace {open}
  • street
  • avenue
  • square
  • forest
  • open field
  • mountain
  • sea
  • outer space
By combining a variety of characters, types of lines and environment, we can produce an infinity of narratives.


Intimacy -> global network

Poking in the internet

Young and Old

breaking Social Boundaries

French romance

Love Distant call


Psychology of Space




Collaborative academic research exploring what “Open Architecture” means in urbanism, computer software, biology, space engineering, philosophy, linguisitcs, social sciences etc. Epistemology of a eternally renewed term that keeps expanding knowledge domain. Contribute.