Wednesday, January 11, 2017

seidenstrasse

While fascinating technologies such as Hyperface, Adam Harvey's countersurveillance project, are making recent news, another project from the Chaos Community Congress from a previous year may also be of interest to Rohrpost-Nerds.


The 303C in 2013 saw the installation of the Seidenstrasse, the congress pneumatic tube system. Inspired by the OCTO installation at the 2013 transmediale festival, which I wrote about here, the Seidenstrasse was installed in the main congress building, using 2 kilometers of tubing. In the lead up to the event, participants were instructed as follows:
Without YOUR capsules Seidenstrasse cannot work – bring one, two, many! Lighting is mandatory, since it makes debugging much easier in case a capsule gets stuck. The possibilities range from capsules made from plastic bottles (cheap and simple) to 3D printed or encrypted capsules. Old vacuum cleaners, leaf blowers and the like are also welcome – please remember to build some kind of noise isolation if you bring a device for blowing or vacuuming ...

For the whole thing to be fun, creative hacker solutions and wild love of experimentation are needed. Some hackerspaces, including Chaos inKL. in Kaiserslautern, Raumfahrtagentur in Berlin, or the protolab in Kleinmachnow are already hacking and making. There are still a lot of unsolved problems left though, waiting for a smart hack: For example solutions for crossing fire emergency doors, which can not be blocked by pipes. The capsules could at these places e.g. fly through the air and be vacuumed in again, or be transported by human or robotic messengers.

Installations for (semi) automatic capsule routing would be rad, or installation details for the switching nodes, or solutions for hanging the pipes at the ceiling, or concepts for Onion Routing, Hidden Servides and so on. Also still missing are capsule counters for network traffic analysis (for the SOC report on day 4).

For this we hope for broad participation by the Chaos family and hacker spaces. You have always wanted a pneumatic post system between the rooms of your space, right? :-)
If anyone who reads this post was at the congress and even sent off a capsule, I would love to hear what it was like!

You can read more about the Silk Road experiment on the Chaos Computer Club website here.

Thanks very much to Thomas for telling me about Hyperface, and Stefan for sending me the links for the Seidenstrasse.

Stefan also sent me a link to a German blogpost by Leitmedium about the Rohrpost exhibit in the communications museum in Berlin, which German speakers and readers may be interested in. You can read it here.


Image used under the Creative Commons licence from Robert Anders' Flikr photostream.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

messages at sea

Happy 2017! As we look to the year ahead, a message from the past, from my pre-Christmas inbox, thanks to Patryk. This time he takes me to 1960, to the classic war film Sink the Bismark! Central to the action and the quest to sink that ship, prominently positioned in the headquarters of the British Admiralty, is a large as life Lamson tube system.
Messages come and go, arriving in the background as characters plot and strategise. Apparently the tubes play an important role in catching the Bismark. I am only halfway through the movie so far, so I am yet to find out how, but you can see for yourself here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFWwPYB74ac

Thanks again Patryk for another piece of fantastic pneumatic post!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

never getting off the (under)ground

The JSTOR Daily Digest recently highlighted an article in the history of technology journal ICON, on pneumatic tube systems. The article documents Beach's system in NYC for human transportation, highlighting the social, economic and political reasons it never really got "off the (under) ground".


The article looks great and I have downloaded it to read - if you can't access a copy but would like to read it too, let me know by email and I will forward a PDF through my library.

Image of Beach's system by Scientific American - Scientific American - March 5, 1870 issue, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27708042

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

travel by tube "a thing"

The Hyperloop continues to make news and continues to be linked to pneumatic tubes. See the latest in this article in Automobile, which calls the Hyperloop a "series of powerful pneumatic tubes", or the human equivalent of the plastic tubes in bank drive-thrus.


Image from Kevin Krejci's Flickr, used under the Creative Commons lisence.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

posting wishes into the abyss

The London Design Biennale, the first ever, took place over a few weeks at Somerset House last month and lucky visitors were be invited to meet a rather special series of pneumatic tubes. The theme was "Utopia by Design" and what better example of this than the beautifully dystopian/utopian pneumatic tube system.

Archinect reports on Turkey's contribution, the installation in the Biennale of The Wish Machine, by Istanbul based Autoban: a tunnel made of transparent hexagonal pneumatic tubes. The tubes are situated in a mirrored space, amplifying the effect of the multiple passages of the messages that are passing through. Visitors have a chance to write their own notes, their own hopes and wishes for a utopian future and feeding them into the Wish machine. Just like throwing coins into a wishing well, the final destination of these notes will remain a mystery.

The website reports that the installation was "inspired by the cultural tradition of threading a note or momento to the branch of a tree as an act of hope born out of hopelessness".

Thanks to Jess for first letting me know about this!

Unfortunately I cannot find any images from the exhibition which are free to share (please let me know if you have any!). There are however lots of great images on the online platform Archinect, as well as De Zeen.

The installation was at the Design Biennale 7th to 27th September 2016.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

sent via atomic fairies and unicorns

Plenty of pneumatic tubes have been captured on Kodak film, although unlike today's camera, the smartphone, it would have been difficult to make the kind of videos I reported on last week with a film camera.


It turns out that Kodak was using pneumatic tubes themselves, but for a very strange purpose - to transport nuclear tests as late as 2006. They had their very own nuclear reactor which was housed in a "closely guarded, two-foot-think concrete walled underground bunker in the company's headquarters" in Rochester New York, according to this Gizmodo report. Reminiscent of the fantastical contemporary art installation in Paris recently, it was "fed tests" by pneumatic tube system, with no employees ever making contact with the reactor. In a sarcastic wink to the fact that humans are always mixed up with technologies, Gizmodo report that apparently the system must have been operated by "atomic fairies and unicorns".

Thanks again to Long Branch Mike for sharing with me another fascinating piece of pneumatic tube pneus.

Flickr image by Asja Boros used under the Creative Commons lisence.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

smart hospital

When the University of Virginia hospital had problems with some of their blood samples in their pneumatic tube system, they turned to one of the most increasingly ubiquitous and handy tools so many of us now have at our disposal: the smartphone.
Using their old smartphones' accelerometer to assess the forces acting on the blood samples during transit, a clinical chemistry postdoctoral fellow and a professor of pathology conducted an experiment. With one smartphone taking recordings and the other shedding light on the video, they sent their phones through the hospital's system. The footage was revealing - the longest track of tube was the problem, and they found frothiness and bubbles which dissipated soon after arrival. They concluded that the smartphone was a great way to monitor such systems.

The pneumatic tube experiment has been written up in the journal Clinical Chemistry. You can find the video footage which supplements the article here. Could this be the first time that tube cam footage has been submitted as scientific evidence??

Read more in the UVA Today article.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

pneumatic waste collection meet-up

You may want to consider a trip to beautiful Barcelona this November if you are a pneumatic tube enthusiast, particularly one interested in the ins and outs of trash disposal.


The International Pneumatic Waste Collection Association Conference is to be held on 16th November, as an official side event of the Smart City World Expo Congress. More information on their website.

Image my own.

Monday, September 12, 2016

99% pneumatic

In the midst of sorting out which podcasts I want to listen to during my late summer holidays, I thought I would share a recent one from a great site, 99% invisible, on the incredible pneumatic fish cannon - enjoy!

http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/fish-cannon/

Image from treehugger.

Friday, August 19, 2016

a pneumatic experiment

Paris loves pneumatic tubes. For decades they used to send love letters (and bills) through the vast networks under the city. Today, pneumatic tubes find themselves in all sorts of interesting places, including contemporary art galleries. I had previously missed Shultz's installation in the foyer of Palais de Tokyo, but had no idea I would have a second chance to see some pneumatic tube art in this wonderful gallery on the banks of the Seine.

Wandering through a maze of bizarre settings and videos by the artist Mirka Rottenberg, my dear friend Pamela and I were having great fun with the swishing ponytails and videos of weird pearl and fast food productions. We came then to a room which had some multi-coloured terry towelling dressing gowns, and we sat down to have a look at the scientific apparatus on our right, and a large video on the wall.


What appeared before us was a crazy pneumatic tube experiment. In some unnamed dessert, a single man walked for what seemed like hours, into the dust. He stopped at a point and brought out a pneumatic tube carrier, taking a sample of the dry earth.


He makes the long walk back then to the sampling headquarters, a small hut where a group of men in overalls are gathered. One takes the tube and sends it off in his machine ...


On the other installation screen, above scientific looking equipment, we see where the tube has headed - to a bizarre scientific laboratory where one can only imagine the kinds of work that is going on.

The exhibition is an re-enactment of a series of performances and an installation that was shown at Performa 11 in New York City (you can watch the video here). For this installation, called SEVEN, Mika Rottenberg collaborated with Jon Kessler. Visitors got to wear the multi-coloured robes and possibly participate in the experiment. Actually judging from the photos of the Paris show, from this gallery here, we should have also donned the robes!


Well they say you never know what you are going to find in Paris, but it never ceases to astound me the number of pneumatic tube discoveries to be found there, in the city of air.

Images from exhibition my own.

For my other posts on Paris, see one on the sewer system, museums, the Dreyfus affair and petit bleus