DAVID ROGERS - Sydney
Re-engineering an Earthquake Simulator
DV Rogers writes on his work in recommissioning
a machine designed to imitate the behaviour of earthquakes.
Participant of ANATs Deep
Immersion: Scientific Serendipty Residency Program in 1999, Rogers details
the various stages involved in re-engineering an earthquake simulator and
what lies ahead in taking this work further.
The earthquake simulator
originally came about as a result of the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake (15 lives
lost), which proved that even Australia was not immune from damaging earthquakes
causing significant human and economic loss. Essentially the simulator was
used as an amusement device; the general public would stand upon it experiencing
a 5.7, magnitude earthquake of engineered equivalence measured for the Newcastle
earthquake. The simulator was removed in April 1996 from a now defunct minerals
and mining musuem, "The Earth Exchange", The Rocks, Sydney.
Culminating in almost 3000hrs
of work the simulator is now fully operational. The new design is a more functional
and modular configuration enabling it to be transported and installed in various
possible locations. Based in a workshop in Leichhardt, NSW, several phases
of redesign and engineering has taken place.
- Bi-axial in its is operation the earthquake
simulator measures 5.2m by 3.3m. It has been re-engineered to carry up to
a 2500kg payload specimen with a displacement of the simulated P wave being
30mm (Horizontal Motion)and the S wave 38mm (Vertical Motion). Beginning
mid 1998, the following research, design and fabrication work has been undertaken;
- Redesign of 3-Phase start up unit for the
- Laying out a working model to test all hydraulic
rams and solenoid valve actuators
- Reconfigure Festo Programmable Logic Controllers
(PLC) and eliminate existing hardware problems
- Learn to operate Festo Software Tools (FST)
- Redesign driver board unit, eliminating
malfunctional relays communicating to solenoid valves
- Design for a new modular structural sub
frame and a modified top frame.
- Actual engineering fabrication of the design
has been implemented and realised, February 2000.
The project is now in research
and development stage towards the design and implementation of a real-time
embedded control system. This component will enable this recommissoned machine
(earthquake simulator) to interpret and output the performance and variable
effects of globally monitored earthquakes by means of real-time remote data
From early times, human curiosity
about the world has stimulated attempts to make recorded measurements of natural
phenomena. InA major undertaking investigating the general principles of control,
means of control, and their utilisation in engineering, seismology, and information
database retrieval. The project will focus on the following three primary
core components required to realise a "Seismonitor" control system;
1.Data Acquisition Of
Globally Monitored Seismic Activity
Data acquisition of globally monitored seismic data is available from a publicly
accessible database retrieval service available from the USGS National Earthquake
Information Centre (NEIC), Golden, Colarado. Since 1973, the U.S. Geological
Survey (USGS) has provided up-to-date earthquake information to scientists,
government agencies, universities, private companies, and the general public.
The USGS has developed the capability to retrieve or accept seismic data automatically
from national and global seismic stations and to provide rapid event locations,
magnitudes, depths, and other characteristics. At present there are almost
3000 globally linked seismic monitoring stations. The NEIC presently locates
and publishes information for approximately 20,000 events a year. The NEIC
and its cooperators have located more than a quarter million earthquakes since
2.Embedded Control System
Design And Implementation
The research, design and implementation of a custom real-time controller enabling
the simulator to conceptually output the physical variables of globally monitored
seismic data. This component will address and define user interface requirements,
programming practices, documentation standards, open loop life cycle planning
and testing procedures. It is an important aspect of the project that the
research for design is thoroughly investigated before hardware installation
and programming takes place. The testing of the embedded system will utilise
the earthquake simulator as the actual test stand.
3.Experiments For Displacement,
Velocity and Acceleration (DVA)
The simulator will undertake a series of experiments calculating the physical
variables of Displacement, Velocity and Acceleration. The reason being a reference
point has to be established so as a database can be compiled enabling for
the simulator to output the corresponding matching input data obtained from
the NEIC database retrieval centre. For instance if an earthquake of magnitude
6.0 on the Richter Scale is reported, an associate variable will determine
the conceptual real-time actuation (run mode) of the simulator.
A methodical research process
is required to realise this work. I am an artist, not a seismologist or computer
systems engineer. To transcend the traditional domain of cultural representation
I believe that artists must broaden their definitions of art material and
contexts. This project will address my curiosity about scientific and technological
research while acquiring the skills and knowledge that will allow my developing
practice to significantly participate in our new world.
Historically this work in
creating a "Seismonitor" control system could be seen to be directly
influenced by the work and writings of Robert Smithson, and his theories of
site and non-site. His notions describing new monumentalism being composed
from artificial materials, plastic, chrome and electric light. Smithson, in
his "Entropy and the New Monuments" described the area of spatio
temporality in artistic practice, and now what material is more abundant,
invasive and open than the era of data? Smithsons work deconstructed the Postmodern
condition and its discussion of the waning of history, subjectivity, cultural
mapping and the age of entropy.
Conceptually this work is
seeking to explore theories of site and non-site. An investigation towards
creating a machine control (automaton) arising from live representation (mirror)
of a remote physical environment (earth). An installation based, system (telematic)
artwork mapping the terrain of spatio temporality of shifting tectonics and
digital information networks.
The work in designing and
implementing a control for the earthquake simulator by enabling it to be automated
by globally monitored seismic data is informed by the following theories;
1. A Redundant Body
Personal interaction with the simulator via remote viewing is not the intention
of this work. The realm of this project is to explore the framework for creating
an autonomous work of machine control with no supervisory intervention, while
at the same time operating as an authentic system of representation.
2. Site and Non-Site
The simulator (artificial) is a non site referring back to the site (earthquake).
If one were able to travel to the epicentre of an earthquake, one could recognise
the material (energy) but would be unable to see the extraction that forms
the non-site (simulator).
3. Mirror Of Representation
Employing the laws of increasing entropy the simulator will intend to invoke
a reality, image, echo, an appearance of work, the machine, the system of
industrial production in its entirety, while at the same time be seen as an
earthwork radically in opposition with the principles of theatrical illusion.
There is current movement
of thought that the new science of now is art, the definition of artistic
practice is becoming increasingly blurred. Science has had to continually
redefine its conception of the world. So has art. It is in their nature as
disciplines to abstract the world and this work with an earthquake simulator,
I hope in the future be seen in the international public domain, metaphorically
speaking as a representation of our current social, economic and geophysical
state. It is hopeful conclusive results will be achieved by mid to late 2001.
For more information DV Rogers
can be contacted via e-mail at:
For current operating specifications
of the Earthquake Simulator point your web browser visit:
David Rogers' web site
& Ionat Zur