Saturday, April 11, 2009

a conversation with dr. rupert soar

dr. rupert soar came to the school march 6, 2009 as an arriscraft lecturer during the living large colloquium hosted by the 3a studio. he presented a fantastic lecture on some of his recent work with the rapid manufacturing research group and project TERMES - the latter generated the most interest within the school, i think, because of its potential to revolutionize HVAC systems. (also, the termite mound casts are beautiful!) (very) basically: termite mounds are tuned to resonate with turbulent air movement in order to exchange heat energy and O2/CO2. not only are these structures tuned to turbulent air movement as opposed to prevailing winds (a constant as opposed to variable phenomenon), they exchange gasses and heat energy use the same three phase "gas exchange mode" as our own respiratory system. during the q&a after his lecture dr. soar mentioned very briefly that he was working with agent-based modeling, so i approached him later that day to pick his brain. he was very patient with my questions and incredibly generous with his time. agent based modeling: the agent-based modeling he mentioned is a part of an Army Research Organization funded development of nano-robots to construct shelters in warzones. the basic principles of the project are: continuous construction (construction that extends into maintenance), containment (a nano-robot 'dies' when it leaves the structure), and natural selection (a system must 'die' if it not fit). this system is inspired by and draws from the project TERMES research. the termite nest: a termite nest is an emergent system - "emergence: complex systems and patterns (which) arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions" (wikipedia, april 12, 2009). there are are only seven or eight "rules" which form this complex system: 1. random walk (no stimulus = walk) 2. response to local pheromone (#1) field: pick up material 3. response to decaying pheromone (#1) in local pheromone field: deposit material 4. response to local pheromone (#2) field: remove material 5. response to decaying pheromone (#2) in local pheromone field: deposit material (pheromone #2 is present in and drives the form of the "root ball") the result of rules 4 and 5 is that a balance in pheromone intensity = balance in O2/CO2 exchange whereas an imbalance in pheromone intensity = construction/deconstruction the nest until the nest is in tune. the mali mud mosque - deconstructing the concept of longevity: longevity: the mosque is trampelled down by the community and rebuilt yearly - if one were to ask the age of the mosque, the locals would answer "2500 years" - the umber of years the community has been celebrating this ritual. learning from termites: cooling cups on the roof of the mosque mimic the function of the structure of termite mounds found within the vicinity of this tribe. continuous construction: construction extends into maintenance. emergent form and material: (i'm a little fuzzy on the details of this argument...but i was intrigued by it so i have included the parts that i can remember here...) architectural style: gothic v. classical. the architectural style of the gothic era was that of a single material (stone) used in many forms (eg. the cathedral: stone as structure, finish, enclosure...). in contrast, during the classical period, form was defined by the material used. dr. soar suggested that the use of a single versatile material like stone (gothic) or gypsum (contemporary) is necessary in order to build an emergent structure. (termites, ants, etc. use soil).

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