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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…

Where is all the plastic in the ocean?

About 10 days ago, we went out with a little group of students and we intentionally spilled 138 gr of plastic samples in a small lake in Hong Kong to test our optical plastic particle sensor. After a few seconds we had to stop the test because our experiment became the feast of many fishes and turtles. It was terrifying to see how quickly plastic debris spread, how voraciously animals came to eat it and how difficult it was to clean it up. It took 10 of us, 4 boats and 40 minutes to clean 138 gr of plastic debris with no waves, no current and very moderate wind. Imagine tons of plastic debris in the open sea and all the animals there…

Today  I have been under an avalanche of questions about plastic pollution in the ocean. It seems hard to trust a reliable source of information or maybe it is the science that is moving very fast. People ask me maybe because I have sailed across the gyre myself, collected plastic samples in Hawaii, and nowadays working on an optical plastic sensor with a team of young students in Hong Kong when I am not developing a fleet of sailing robots that I hope one day will be out there measuring plastic and other pollutions like radioactivity, acidification, oil spills, overfishing and other urgent ocean issues. But to be honest I have much more questions than I have answers – at this stage we all do. I am writing to compile some informations I came across recently, trying to make sense and propose some ideas.


When we found out

“Every year we produce about 300 million tons of plastic, a portion of which enters and accumulates in the oceans. […] In 2012 alone, 288 million tons of plastic were produced (PlasticsEurope 2013), which is approximately the same weight of the entire human biomass (Walpole et al., 2012). […] The discovery of fragmented plastic during plankton tows of the Sargasso Sea in 1971 led to one of the earliest studies of plastic in the marine environment. Using a 333 micron surface net trawl, Carpenter and Smith collected small fragments of plastics in 1971, resulting in estimates of the presence of plastic particulates at an average of 3,500 pieces and 290 g/km2 in the western Sargasso Sea (Carpenter and Smith, 1972). Shortly after, Colton et al., (1974) surveyed the coastal waters from New England to the Bahamas and confirmed distribution of plastic all along the North Atlantic. These studies have been recently updated in two comprehensive studies of the North Atlantic gyre (K. L. Law et al., 2010; Moret- Ferguson et al., 2010). Indeed, plastic is found in most marine and terrestrial habitats, including bays, estuaries, coral reefs, lakes and the open oceans. (Rochman et al., 2014, Wright et al., 2013). The ingestion rate of plastic particles by mesopelagic fish species in this area is estimated between 12,000 and 24,000 ton/year (Davison and Asch, 2011).
“How the oceans can clean themselves, A feasibility Study” Ocean Cleanup Array, June 2014.


What we thought we knew

AVANI-trawl, photo marcus Eriksen

I trust Algalita Foundation and 5 gyres for that I was lucky to meet them in person and they had been to several gyres many times as an independent non-profit organisation. Below are some journeys they have done with a manta trawler as you see a picture of above. They explain their method very well and in simple words here.
In 2008, we had a horrifying map but we felt somehow confident about the data.

Plastic ocean Ma

In 2010, Dohan and Maximienko  (Illustration above, 2010. Oceanography 23, 94–103.), based on the trawler data by Algalita and other organisations produced this famous simulation of where we should expect plastic to be. Don’t be fooled by some pictures you probably saw of the “plastic continent”, such thing does not exist in the middle of the ocean.

Yet, the Algalita announced that “Estimates of plastic in the world’s oceans exceed 100 million tons. Though 20% comes from ocean sources like derelict fishing gear, 80% comes from land, from our watersheds.”

So at this stage, we thought, we would find tens of millions of tons of plastic debris in the gyres. Well…


What we think we know now

Thanks to Dr Blurton of the Hong Kong Harbour School who sent me the pdf, I was quite shocked with this new publication “Plastic debris in the open ocean” by Andrés Cózara, Fidel Echevarríaa, J. Ignacio González-Gordilloa, Xabier Irigoienb, Bárbara Úbedaa, Santiago Hernández-Leónd, Álvaro T. Palmae, Sandra Navarrof, Juan García-de-Lomasa, Andrea Ruizg, María L. Fernández-de-Puellesh, and Carlos M. Duartei. Good job ladies and gentlemen. The pdf is here :
I am selecting only some essential information but I recommend you to read the paper, it’s short, only 5 pages + references.

"Concentrations of plastic debris in surface waters of the global ocean" Plastic debris in the open ocean
In 2010 (yes, 4 years ago – but the paper has been published June 6th 2014), the team embarked on a sailing journey around the world as the “Malaspina science expedition” , doing  3,070 ocean samples with a manta trawler. The grey areas is where prior research ( explained above) suggest they would find plastic accumulation, and that was verified as you see with the yellow, orange and red dots. But…

“Those little pieces of plastic, known as microplastics, can last hundreds of years and were detected in 88 percent of the ocean surface sampled during the Malaspina Expedition 2010,” lead researcher and the author of the study Andres Cozar from the University of Cadiz, told AFP. The total amount of plastic in the open-ocean surface is estimated at between 7,000 and 35,000 tons, according to the report. This amount, though big, is lower than the scientists expected.”

"Range of the global load of plastic debris in surface waters of the open ocean" Plastic debris in the open ocean

  • Before this paper, much of the attention was focused toward the North Pacific Garbage Patch => turns out all the other oceans are in bad shape too.
  • Before this paper, we knew plastic was present in all oceans but the general consensus was that it was accumulating in the center of the gyres mostly => Now we have measured plastic to be present on 88% of the world ocean surface. Pretty much everywhere.
  • Before this paper, the estimates were ranging from tens of millions of tons to hundred of millions of tons => Now maximum 35’000 tons. [silence] 35’000 tons? That’s it!!!??? Is that amazing good news, or is that bad news!?


What we (think we) really know now

Out of the estimated millions of tons of plastic debris we emit, we can now only find at most 35’000 tons spread over 88% of the oceans. S0 we know now where is less than 1% of the plastic we anticipated finding. Where is the 99%+ of the rest of the plastic? This is really embarrassing.


The media is going crazy about it

The articles about this are popping out from all part, I wont try to keep track of all the links, because they are pretty much all based on the same paper I mentioned above. Many are spreading panic, instead of awareness unfortunately.


What will the Ocean CleanUp  Array collect?

Back in October 2012 “according to Boyan Slat’s calculations, a gyre could realistically be cleaned up in five years’ time, collecting at least 7.25 million tons of plastic combining all gyres. He however does note that an ocean-based cleanup is only half the story, and will therefore have to be paired with ‘radical plastic pollution prevention methods in order to succeed.” (Wikipedia, retrieved July 2nd, 2014). 

In June 2014, in the feasibility study : “The Ocean Cleanup Array is estimated to be 33 times cheaper than conventional cleanup proposals per extracted mass of plastics. In order to extract 70 million kg (or 42 percent) of garbage from the North Pacific Gyre over 10 years, we calculated a total cost of 317 million euro.”

Multilevel Trawl

Sure, the “multi-level trawler” (p102 0f the Feasibility Study)  used by the Ocean Cleanup team is radically different from the “regular manta trawler” everybody else uses. But the difference of plastic quantity is not found here either. There are so many variables to making a correct plastic measurement, the speed of the boat, the size of the mesh, the position of the trawler in the regards to the wake of the boat, the wind and the waves …

So, how can the Ocean Cleanup collect 70’000 tons from the North Pacific Gyre alone if the most recent estimate of ALL the plastic in ALL ocean surface combined is only of 35’000 tons? And how can this information even be trusted when ” Last year, an estimated 150,000 tons of marine plastic debris ended up on the shores of Japan and 300 tons a day on India’s coasts ( retrieved July 3rd 2014)”.  If this recent study  from the Malaspina expedition confirms true, would the collection of plastic debris with the Ocean Cleanup array be less meaningful? And less profitable if at all? But wait, that is not the question. Of course we need to stop emitting plastic in the ocean – that’s not a new idea and that is self-evident. And of course we must collect the plastic that is already out there and will continue to accumulate in the ocean – even if it is expensive instead of profitable. I personally support Boyan Slat and his team. No matter how many people say “this is impossible” someone has got to try. Even if it is to fail, we must try and try again, again we succeed. This technology, or another technology.

But the real question remains : where is the plastic? How can we have plastic measurements dropping so dramatically?


How can we find out what is really going on?

Such a large amount of plastic has not disappeared over night, between 2008 (Algalita estimate) and 2010 (Malaspina measurements).

Scientists argue that :

  • some plastic breaks down so small, it goes through the fine plankton net they use. Plastic still floats but we can’t be measured unless we use an extra finer mesh that is probably more fragile, forcing the ship to move the trawler even slower (it was already recommended to sail at 2 Nautical Knots, well up to 8 knots for the fast Erikson trawler).
  • the plastic chemical composition changes causing it to distribute in the water column or sink at the bottom of the ocean
  • the plastic is being ingested by animals and is being pooped, dropping to the bottom of the ocean, or it moves into the food web with all it’s toxics and until it eventually reached our plates

But we don’t know yet in which proportions each of these phenomenon happen at all yet.


Some ideas

Optical sensing

If the plastic is so small that it go through the mesh, maybe it is not a mesh we should be using to measure plastic. What about optics?
For a long time Laser Optical Plankton Counters (LOPC) have been in use to measure plankton. We don’t collect physical sample, we collect data, the machine can keep running without interruption, the data is more granular and instantly processed.

Laser-Optical Plankton Counter (LOPC)  Laser-Optical Plankton Counter (LOPC)

In the LOPC, water carrying plankton is  flowing. The plankton is being “flashed” by a laser and it is from the outline it that is then counted automatically.

Laser-Optical Plankton Counter (LOPC)

Mobile sensing platform

Haching a video water channel at the Hong Kong aharbour School

With a motivated group of young students, we hacked a low cost water video channel.

Testing the Ocean Plastic optical sensor, Hong Kong Harbour School

We attached our optical sensor to a small Remote Controlled (RC) power boat. As we sailed, some water that contains plastic debris was video recorded and the plastics bits were also captured in the pink net at the back of the video channel. The point of the pink net is too measure the plastic physically collected that has travelled through the video channel, and compare it with the estimate that we can make from the video alone. We have not done that experiment comparison yet, but it would give us an idea of how reliable our video estimate is in comparison to the real measured weight of plastic collected.

We managed to capture video of plastic particles moving through the video channel. This still very rough.


Motion tracking of plastic parts

We have been very lucky to get some help from Edward Fung who started to tinker with the video on OpenCV.


Isolation and quantification of plastic

Now, it would be great if we could find out what is plastic and what is not. One of the greatest difficulty being that plastic debris becomes a habitat or a transport for a lot of marine life. How can an untrained software (as opposed to a machine learning based software) distinguish plastic from something else? Typically a plastic fragment would be wrapped into a “bubble” of organic matter, making it more difficult to isolate from an optical perspective. Thankfully, one student in our team, Brandon Wong found out this research :

“We succeeded in developing technology that is capable of sensing plastics using an InGaAsP (Indium Gallium Arsenide Phosphide) semiconductor laser diode (LD)

It was discovered that upon measuring light absorption spectra in plastics, in the wavelength range of 300 to 3000 nm, the peak values were always observed at or near 1700 nm, regardless of plastic types. This discovery opened the possibility for simple optical sensing of plastics with the use of a LD in this wavelength range. Observation of unique light absorption characteristics within the near infra-red spectrum of each different plastic type has led us to develop the world’s first technology capable of detecting different types of plastics with the use of a LD (with three different wavelengths).”

So this is really exciting if we could use the right “lighting” and camera to optically detect such great variety of plastic. There are several inspiring DIY spectrometer projects out there to get inspired from. Check also the Riffle with Optical data logger capacity.


Size adjustment

If we manage to get that optical detection running, the last but not least challenge may be to scale  from a regular webcam to a microscope-scaled system.


"Size distribution of floating plastic debris collected during the Malaspina circumnavigation at calm conditions." Plastic debris in the open ocean

According to the research done during the Malaspina Ocean Expedition the plastic particles we are trying to measure are very very small… Could we be heading in the direction of microfluidic systems?

If the plastic debris we are trying to test are incredibly small, could we control the flow in a very precise yet robust way to perform spectral and / or chemical analysis? Many questions to explore…

So with such a system, could we answer the 2 first questions? :

  • sensing plastic that is extremely small
  • sensing plastic that is small and broken and sunk at the bottom of the ocean – that would imply that this machine can be taken thousands of meter deep : super high-pressure resistant

I day dream that a fleet of autonomous sailing robots doing the remote sensing work. In fact the Ocean Cleanup feasibility study mentions the relevance of deploying such sensor network system in it’s recommandation pages :

P439_Ocean cleanup array_TOC_Feasibility_study_lowres

Is that a fleet of Protei right there :) !?

And now the third question ? What part do animals have in the “plastic disappearing” plot? We wont be able to see that in an optical system unless we’re dealing with tiny transparent animals.


Animal testing

I feel terrible for even thinking about this but that is just an idea at this stage. What I am about to propose might be totally unethical, I don’t know. Marine biology and toxicology are not my areas at all. Forgive my ignorance and please correct anything wrong that I may propose, please comment to help.

As I used as this post introduction, our experience with dispersing 138gr of plastic had become a spill in a few seconds on which turtles and fishes came to feast. We had to interrupt the experiment and it took 10 of us during 40 minutes to collect 138gr of plastic debris with 4 boats on a lake that had no current, no waves and very moderate wind. What we learnt is that turtles and fishes love to eat plastic. In fact many studies about suffering, dead animal dissection and observation of carcasses indicate that birds, and marine animals feed abundantly on plastic. But how do you measure how much plastic an animal is willing to eat when given the choice?

In a controlled environment – say a box – we place an aquatic animal. We feed this animal a mix of plastic and “real” food in equal quantities with an excess of overall quantity.

  • Will the animal eat more food or plastic (behaviour)? Will that behaviour change over time? Does the animal develop a preference for certain plastic? By the taste? Smell? Texture? Colour? Motion?
  • How much plastic would still remain untouched in the environment?
  • How much plastic will travel through the digestive system?
  • How much plastic would remain within the digestive system? And if so, how much would the plastic be digested if at all?
  • What are the short term symptoms of plastic poisoning (mechanical) ?
  • What are the long term symptom of plastic poisoning (chemical)?
  • What is the lethal dose for type A / B / C / D / Plastic?
  • What is the most lethal shape or size of plastic fragment?
  • Is an animal dead by plastic attractive as a food form for another carcasses-eating animals?
  • When an animal dies and decompose, how much of the overall plastic of the experiment remains?

many more questions could be asked and variables included such as the size of the box, the season, the age of the animal, the sex, social learning doing the experiment with multiple animals simultaneously.


Who is active in Hong Kong?

There are several groups in Hong Kong interested in the topic of plastic pollution


My non-conclusion

What we thought we know about plastic pollution has just been challenged in a very big way. And I believe this will happen again soon as we investigate.
The plastic pollution is present at a whole different scale, both small for the particle size and huge by it’s distribution over pretty much the entire ocean surface (88%) and abyssal depths.
The effects of plastic pollution at theses scales are still very unknown. As we keep developing new concepts for ocean cleaning we are still lacking understanding of where is the plastic, how is it transformed while travelling great distances? How does it impact marine life? How does plastic and it’s chemical compounds travel through the food chain to our plates? What are the consequences on human health? What can we do about it?

The more we learn about plastic in the ocean and the more we understand how harmful of a substance it is. And as André Cózar concludes in this important paper.

The abundance of nano-scale plastic particles has still not been quantified in the ocean, and the measurements of microplastic in deep ocean are very scarce, although available observations point to a significant abundance of microplastic particles in deep sediments, which invokes a mechanism for the vertical transport of plastic particles, such as biofouling or ingestion. Because plastic inputs into the ocean will probably continue, and even increase, resolving the ultimate pathways and fate of these debris is a matter of urgency.

So many more questions now… But 2 ideas how to investigate. More ideas? Suggestions? Readings?


Prototyping Tom Chi Book

20130209 Tom Chi's book
Sometimes you might meet a master. Tom Chi is a master.

Tom Chi & Cesar Harada

I feel lucky. But there is much more.

I was so impressed, I asked where I could buy Tom Chi’s book. And to my surprise, I did not find it anywhere.
So I proposed to write it. We decided to rapid prototype it. “Tom Chi” became a verb. It became a website. It became a twitter hashtag #tomchibook, it became a way of thinking, an attitude, perhaps a way of life.
With a handful of passionate followers and Tom Chi’s himself, we started brainstorming what the book would have as content. For several days, we met regularly. I want to continue until I have a hard copy in my hands. I wrote a 360 Pages book about my father the sculptor Tetsuo Harada in 3 languages, about 700 pictures and drawings. I feel capable and exciting to handle this.

Tom Chi and other's thoughts
All our brains melted over-clocked. We were all willing. And asked for more.

Map of unspoken reality
Needs an explanation.

Vision portfolio, posting
Needs more explanations.

Feeling and perception

Sharing long buried notes

The Brain - the world
So many models.

Prototyping Tom Chi's book

Here from left to right: Tom Chi, Laura Edwards, Cesar Harada, Gabriella Levine in classroom 1, on board of the MV Explorer.

But we did not have only these brainstorm sessions with Tom, we also had classes. Following are some photos and notes from a class.
Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Why we should try more things.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
And now why trying, is learning, is saving time towards achieving goals. And is fun.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
And why prototyping is brave, and smarter than only thinking. Thinking by doing, is better than thinking only. Why designing by prototype is better than just designing.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
And in that respect, there is no such thing as “failure” as long as you learn from it.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Same thing when it comes to business. It is not necessary to have millions to test an idea and waste all that time and that money. You can prototype it and quickly find out where it fails, and find many alternative routes.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Same for a website or a software. A piece of papers, a few sticky notes. Done. A full user experience.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Same for a marketing campaign. It can be acted. You can test it on your colleagues, friends and family. Get feedback, improve, change radically.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Now in the “jungle of options”… How can one finds its way?

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
Chi’s clearly defining R&D. Research is multiplying options, even contradictory directions, especially contradictory trajectories. Development is, after choosing one option, or combining several options, to be as efficient and focused on developing one clear thing with a list of specs, deliverables, outcomes.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
For Chi, all products and experiences are producing mental transformations. Our devices alter how we perceive the world, and ourselves.

Tom Chi workshop, Unreasonable at Sea, 2013
As a conclusion of this session, Tom Chi presented the work of his amazing wife Lucille Whitaker and her upcoming book about the inter-dependance of systems, an illustrated educational book.

Protei visiting HK, China
Tom Chi has improved the way we work together and with others.

Protei visiting HK, China
How to manage time, tasks, expectations. How to wrap up compelling experiences into learning, learning into actions, into transformations of the self. I will continue working on the book as long as I am allowed.

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
We have some content.

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
With the right way of thinking, all becomes possible.

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
What is the next internet?

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
Can we be intentional and create a strong platform for collaboration and build a positive global consciousness?

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
Can the singularity be not about machine taking over humans, but a true collaboration that empowers both?

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
Can we work together and exponentially augment human shared intelligence as a continuous dialog, instead of all thinking in our silos?

Brainstorming and prototyping with Tom Chi
For me, this is the continuation of my research on Open Architecture. Above, my illustrated history of western philosophy. I need to continue this research. This is a work of epistemology.

Ways of thinking. To unite the world, we must admit there are many different ways of thinking. It is in diversity that we will find Peace… and Chaos.

20130410 Protei wants to work in Ghana

Protei had a great time in Ghana, many productive meetings.
We want to come back to Ghana and work with many locals initiatives.


Open Hardware for the Environment Questions


Thanks to Andrea Grover, I got these highly relevant questions about Open Hardware for the Environment from Hiroyuki Hamada. With his permission, I am transferring these questions here on my blog, to perhaps integrate the FAQ of Protei new website.


>> Have you met any resistance from governmental organizations or industry people for not conforming to the traditional business model or simply be seen as a threat?
I think we have been too small to be seen as a threat to anyone for now, but we hope that as we grow, this will not happen. We really want to serve government, industry, academia and residents (environmental activists) as a neutral technology platform for science and environmental remediation. Our technology is very new, in comparison flying drones have attracted much more serious and deserved criticism, it is a matter of time I guess. Any technology can be used for malicious ends, we need to work on best practice and I personally will not support military applications of our technology.
Our business model is based on an Ethical Order of Priority that puts the environment first. This is the shift that our civilisations need to take if they are interested to continue existing in the future. Joi Ito puts it very well here :

One hundred years from now, the role of science and technology will be about becoming part of nature rather than trying to control it.

So much of science and technology has been about pursuing efficiency, scale and “exponential growth” at the expense of our environment and our resources. We have rewarded those who invent technologies that control our triumph over nature in some way. This is clearly not sustainable.

We must understand that we live in a complex system where everything is interrelated and interdependent and that everything we design impacts a larger system.

My dream is that 100 years from now, we will be learning from nature, integrating with nature and using science and technology to bring nature into our lives to make human beings and our artifacts not only zero impact but a positive impact to the natural system that we live in.

I agree with this statement, and I believe is that this way of thinking should not be postponed to a hundred years from now, but put in practice immediately to re-think our philosophical, economic, industrial and social models. I am lucky enough to start a project from a blank slate and incorporate these into my group strategy, vision and daily operations.

>> How do you enforce the conditions for the open hardware partnership? Patent issues? And most importantly, how do you make sure that the ethical concerns–the environmental concerns–to be the central to the projects? Have there been any legal cases involving open hardware?
Any technological device that’s complex enough, comes with a user agreement and some sort of disclaimer limiting the liability from the manufacturer in case of misuse of the technology / accident incurred. If it was expensive enough it might even come with a warranty. If the technology is recent and occupies a significant market segment, it is likely that the technology will be licensed / patented in order to guarantee the industrial an exclusivity on the intellectual property, the manufacturing, distribution, branding and marketing of a technology. Each person in this traditional chain protects their interests, monopoly, maximise their own profit with a reduced transparency.

It is in the interest of everyone in the Open Hardware community (makers and users are the same people) that the technologies progresses fast. That’s even more clean when it is to address environmental issues. When we publish our work, we publish it as alpha or beta on the public web under an open licence.   So far we have been using :

We are in the process of developing our own “flavour” of Open Hardware license that we are calling Open Hardware H2O, that will be maintained by the non Profit organisation Open-H2O specifically for aquatic applications, similarly to how the CERN developed their own “Open Hardware CERN” license.
To date and in my knowledge, the Open Hardware license that we are using has not yet been challenged at the court (it is only 2 years old license). Of course, we do not want to see any Open Hardware company being abused but we are looking for our license to be validated through winning a litigation, making a case.

The licensing of the work cannot enforce that the technology will be used for environmental good ; as it is an open source technology, anyone can use it for whatever they want, we do not want to declare any use of our technology illegal, the user is responsible. In our company, we have decided to make decisions according to the ethical principles mentioned above, that means that : to economic growth we will prioritise environmental growth, social growth and technological growth. We found that not only people or companies can work like that, but a new generation of stock exchange such as “Impact Investment Exchange” value the environment and social good as well as economic trade . This is not a purely an uninterested ideological statement -as we do need to make money to operate- it is also going with the assumption that environmental resources are more precious than economic resources : “When the Last Tree Is Cut Down, the Last Fish Eaten, and the Last Stream Poisoned, You Will Realize That You Cannot Eat Money” (I found it hard to find a reliable source to quote, I apologize). We believe that technology is to serve the environment, not to dominate it, and that on the long term, we will see greater economic returns as we protect and promote precious “environmental assets” ; this goes without mentioning water wars, Environmental migration and other impacting socio-economic events …


>> I see that the successful operations of open hardware depends on openness, equal rights and fairness. There might be additional challenges if the market/operation to be global because of the differences in governmental regulations or restrictions possibly imposed by corporate based international treaties (NAFTA, upcoming TPP and so on). Has there been any global initiatives to enforce and protect the basic rules of open hardware? 
I believe in equal opportunities, but I personally believe in meritocracy to run a community and a company – to me that’s fairness, and that’s encouraging efficiency to serve the purpose of the company : explore and protect the Environment.
There will be challenges inherent to the space we are evolving in (international and national waters) and the questions of liability of sailing drones is a relatively new subject for everyone, as autonomous journeying just found a new record a few days ago. I must admit that we do not have the answer to this today. The “Open Hardware H2O” license version 0.1 that we are working on is meant to draft what would be the inventor, manufacturer, ship-owner, user/operator responsibility in respect to all the NAFTA, TPP, Governmental regulations and treaties. As our organisation grows and we get more funding, we will be able to support more lawyer’s time and upgrade this license from Version 0.1 to 0.2 etc.

>> Are the big industries catching up to incorporate the open hardware? 
Big industry players are starting to understand that Open Innovation is where future big money is, with the rise of the Prosumer, the long tail and other economic paradigm born in recent years with the internet, mobile technologies and globalisation. The question is “can they adapt?”, “can they re-invent themselves?”, or will they collapse under their own weight as most empire do? We are in discussion with several large companies, because they are interested to understand how we innovate so fast, and how we thrive ignoring boundaries between governments, industries, academia and residents -namely- the entire market. Think about automotive Industry that may be one day taken over by groups such as wikispeed, think about agriculture with Open Ecology, and us for ocean technologies.
One of the most emblematic Open Hardware technology is Arduino and you can now find it in every RadioShack. In 2010 Lady Ada and P Torrone presented “Million dollar baby – Businesses designing and selling open source hardware, making millions“, and that was 2010, now we are talking about hundreds of Open Hardware projects and businesses.

Open source hardware $1m and beyond – foo camp east 2010 from adafruit industries on Vimeo.

At the occasion of Iran Army intercepting a US drone, Chris Anderson of 3D Robotics made fascinating comments of how the US Army is interested to tap into Open Hardware to accelerate technology development. You would be surprised how many open source technologies are used for national security and intelligence.

I personally believe that the Open Hardware movement is at the heart of the Next Industrial Revolution. What I am interested in is : how can we can make sure that this industrial revolution does not perpetuate even more harm to the environment than the previous one did, hence my extreme interest in the “Open Hardware for the Environment”.
I am now :

  • writing my PhD Thesis about the topic
  • starting a business of ocean robotics based on these premises, Protei INC.
  • contributing to a non-profit that develops such technologies, Open-H2O.

This is an unchartered territory and we need to make our own way through the unknown. It is certainly exciting, the stakes are high with huge environmental challenges, and we will make many mistakes, stumble and get back up, each of us contributing an un-recognisably microscopic part to the transformation of our human culture. But what I love about this movement is how many shoulders one can find, how many helping hands are joining this effort, how many friendships are built. It is a technological adventure, but it is also a philosophical one, a financial one, an environmental one. Yes, one day big industries will capture the spirit of Open Hardware and market it, some of it will be controlled by us, some not, and some of us will continue to explore always further, dreaming and fighting for environmental justice.

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!

Public Lab DIY Spectrometry Kit

The Public Lab is launching on Kickstarter :  a “DIY kit helps analyze materials and contaminants. We need your help to build a library of open-source spectral data.” In the video Jeff Warren explains that this will be like a “shazam for material”, “wikipedia style” a “ubiquitous tool for scientists to identify unknown materials, like oil spill residue or coal tar in urban waterways”. As Protei is embarking for a journey to study and protect the ocean, this may reveal a very useful tool to have on our Unreasonable trip and make us contributors to this great community. I was very happy to work with Public Lab on the BP Oil Spill and I recognize some pictures I took in that video :)  I look forward to work on these new instruments. We want some of these, and please spread around. Open Hardware for the Environment!

Protei, Open hardware Shape Shifting Sailing Robot to Sense and Clean the Oceans.

Open hardware, shape-shifting sailing robot to sense and clean the oceans.The entire hull bends to control providing it unprecedented sailing properties. Originally developed to clean up oil spills, Protei will be used to measure radioactivity, plastic debris, monitor fisheries, coral reefs, algae blooms, provide general oceanographic data or serving as surface satellite link to underwater vehicles.