Archives for posts with tag: magnetoreception

Editing footage for the video Belly of a Rock which will be shown on an old monitor encased in a sculptural hybrid form relating to both mollusc and rock. The giant sea slug of the mollusc family, can derive directional cues from the magnetic field of the earth which is then modified in response to the lunar cycle. It orients its body between north and east prior to a full moon. In the slug’s nervous system, four particular neurons are stimulated by changes in the applied magnetic field, and two are inhibited by such changes suggesting that the animal uses its magnetic sense continuously to help it travel in a straight line.

The Earth can be divided into the inner core, the outer core, the mantle, and the thin crust. The outer core is about 1,367 miles thick and mostly composed of liquid iron and nickel. It is very malleable and in a state of violent convection. The churning liquid metal of the outer core creates and sustains Earth’s magnetic field. At the boundary between the inner and outer core temperatures can reach 6,000° C which is as hot as the surface of the sun. The inner core is a dense ball of mostly iron, but with a temperature above the melting point of iron, it is not liquid or even molten. Intense pressure from the rest of the planet and its atmosphere prevents the iron inner core from melting as the iron atoms are unable to move into a liquid state. It could be described as a plasma behaving as a solid. The inner core rotates eastward, like the surface of the planet, but it’s a little faster, making an extra rotation about every 1,000 years.  Geoscientists think that the iron crystals in the inner core align north-south, along with Earth’s axis of rotation and magnetic field and are arranged in a hexagonal close-packed pattern. The orientation of the crystal structure means that seismic waves travel faster when going north-south than when going east-west. Seismic waves travel four seconds faster pole-to-pole than through the Equator. 

The Earth is still cooling and as it does so, bits of the liquid outer core solidify or crystallize causing the solid inner core to grow by about a millimetre every year. The growth is not uniform, it is influenced by activity in the mantle and is more concentrated around regions where tectonic plates are slipping from the lithosphere into the mantle, drawing heat from the core and cooling the surrounding area. The crystallization process is very slow, and further slowed by the constant radioactive decay of Earth’s interior. Scientists estimate it would take about 91 billion years for the core to completely solidify but the sun will burn out in just 5 billion years. 

I have nervously passed the cosmic ray detectors over to programmer Jamie. It was hard to let them out of my sight after so much work to get them built but he can’t test the code he has written without them. The Breath of Stars directly interacts with cosmic rays in real time to trigger a digital reaction via a mini computer attached to a block of plastic scintillator and a sensitive photomultiplier. As each particle strikes the plastic scintillator its energy is recorded and a starburst image video relative to the energy released is projected, with the largest images representing the particles with the highest energy.

I am constructing an Obelisk sculpture in response to the concrete obelisk erected in 1955 at Hartland Magnetic Observatory, near the site’s northern boundary as a permanent azimuth mark. It is viewed via a theodolite through a window in the north wall of the Absolute Hut, its azimuth being 11º27’54” E of N and marks the point from which the magnetic north pole is tracked as it drifts westwards. Layers of torn recycled paper are stacked like sedimentary rock that holds clues to the Earth’s magnetic field reversals in its strata.

Copper contours of magnetic field lines have been lacquered to preserve the heat patina from plasma gun cutting. These shapes will be pinned to the north facing mossy wall of the Absolute Hut installation, a reimagining of the Absolute Hut at Hartland Magnetic Observatory. I will also employ a north facing window from which to observe the azimuth mark of the Obelisk sculpture.

A second research visit to RSPB Snettisham, this time to see the pink footed geese (which over winter on the mudflats here) leave their roost at dawn to fly to the fields to feed.

The walk from the car park to the viewing area is over 2km and takes about half an hour to walk. Setting out before first light the weather felt promising but just as I erected the camera tripod the rain came down hard and didn’t stop for the rest of the morning.

Made a second attempt the next morning leaving a little earlier and although it remained dry there was heavy fog over the sea. Not great for filming with my very basic kit but very atmospheric to experience as the geese emerged from the sea mists.

The noise they make is incredible, a constant chattering building to a crescendo of honking calls as they rise from the water and swarm across the sky in their hundreds. They come in waves but look like particles. At one point what sounded like a few gunshots fired out across the bay in the distant darkness. This sudden disturbance set off a slow deep rumble which drew closer accompanied by a low dark cloud growing heavily stronger building and rising as a huge tidal wave of geese rose simultaneously into the sky in panicked disarray. Extraordinary to witness.

Birds are able to “see” Earth’s magnetic field lines and use that information for navigation. Their compass ability comes from a quantum effect in radical pairs, formed photochemically in the eyes. This light sensitive magnetic compass used by birds is affected by the polarisation direction of light. Exposure to blue light excites an electron, which causes the formation of a radical-pair whose electrons are quantum entangled, enabling the precision needed for magnetoreception.

In chemistry a radical is an unpaired electron which is can be highly chemically reactive. In the radical pair mechanism a pair of electrons with opposite spins have a chemical bond. Light can cause the electrons to change spin direction which can break the bond giving the electron a chance to react with other molecules. In magnetoreception two cryptochrome molecules, found in the rod cells in the eyes of birds, each with unpaired electrons, exist in states either with their spin axes in the same direction, or in opposite directions, oscillating rapidly between the two states. That oscillation is extremely sensitive and can detect the weak magnetic field of the Earth. Birds then move their heads to read the spin of the molecules and therefore detect the orientation of the magnetic field.

While in North Norfolk staying in a beach chalet away from light pollution I was able to make a couple of short time lapse videos centering on Polaris.

Birds can detect the slow arc of the sun and the rotation of the constellations across the sky which is imperceptible to humans and allows migrating birds to orient themselves using celestial navigation as well as magnetoreception.

Birds are also able to detect rapid movement such as individual flashes or flickering of a fluorescent light which humans see as a continuous light. Hawks which pursue other birds through dense forests at high speeds, follow the movement of their prey while avoiding branches and other obstacles. To humans travelling at this speed, the fleeing prey, branches and obstacles would just be a blur.

Gallery Visit

Thames-side Gallery ‘The Accurate Perception Available When Our Eye Becomes Single’ is an immersive multi-screen installation evoking the emotional specifics of place (Orford Ness on the Suffolk coast) while exploring the elasticity of time and history. It is an audio-visual collaboration between Richard Ducker (video) and Ian Thompson (sound) with no linear narrative; sound and image are not synchronised, so each viewing is a unique experience. Sarah Sparkes also makes an enigmatic performative appearance both in the video and live in the gallery.

The crashing sea on shingle, open spaces and brutalist bunker architecture of Orford Ness are echoed in the gallery with audio pitched to envelop and resonate but not overwhelm. Nicely done.

Listening

I really enjoy the Inside Science podcasts with Gaia Vince and this one interviewing cosmologist and theoretical physicist Laura Mersini-Houghton about finding evidence that supports her multiverse theory was particularly fascinating.

Multiverses, melting glaciers and what you can tell from the noise of someone peeing

According to Laura the single universe theory is mathematically impossible.

Reading

Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life. A remarkable reveal of an other world, so different yet so entwined with our own. Beautifully clear analogies help to bridge an understanding between human and fungi.

The ability to detect and respond to chemicals is a primordial sensory ability.

In humans when a molecule lands on our olfactory epithelium and binds to a receptor it causes nerves to fire triggering thoughts and emotional responses.

A mycelial network is one large chemically sensitive membrane: a molecule can bind to a receptor anywhere on its surface and trigger a signalling cascade that alters fungal behaviour.

Fungal lives are lived in a flood of sensory information.

They have light receptors, are sensitive to touch and it also looks like fungi may form fantastically complex networks of electrically excitable cells – a potential ‘fungal computer’ using electrical signalling as a basis for rapid communication and decision making which could learn and remember.

Delighted to have my video installation At a Distance included in The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity  exhibition in the subterranean labyrinth of former police cells that is The Island Venue in Bristol. Curated by Sarah Strachan and Ayeshah Zolghadr. Exhibition Images by Steve Russell Studios.

This is a satellite exhibition of the International Printmaking Conference taking place at The Centre for Print Research, University of the West of England, Bristol. Motivated by the International Multidisciplinary Printmaking Conference IMPACT 12’s theme ‘Merging and Metamorphosis’, the exhibition aims to trace the metamorphosis of conversations between disciplines, seeking to reframe printmaking practice as a ‘site of interdisciplinarity’ and consider contemporary approaches to print as ‘a site of ambivalence, tension or a fertile ground for exploration and experimentation.’

Works include:

Valerie O’Regan, Vertical Landscape  Nicky Harwood Parachute  Åse Vikse The Sixteen  Hannah Robin Baker “In Conversation With…”  Heather Burwell Nostalgia Erika Cann Feldspar Score  Katy Drake Expose  Pauline Scott-Garrett An Almost Invisible Wound  Debby Lauder Fair, Fine, Brisk  Sarah Strachan The Security Dilemma  Lon Kirkop Ċella ta’ Wieħed  Rana Al Ogayyel Visual Sound and Hear the Print Judy Dibiase Trace  Laura Greenway Never Enough  Mick Paulusma Being There  A. Rosemary Watson line_space_form III.VII.I   Katherine Van Uytrecht Cellular Sound  Ayeshah Zolghadr Individuated Copy Series  Nicole Pietrantoni Still Life: Darwin’s Barberry  Simon Leahy-Clark Untitled  Cameron Lings Drawing: The Expanded Field  Mary Rouncefield Escape To Infinity  Jon Michaelides 16 x 64  Susan Eyre At a Distance  Corinna Reynolds Traces of Pathways Strachan + Zolghadr Boundary Objects  Heather Burwell Playing Games  Alexandra Sivov “Listen To Me!”  Joe Dean Southern Trains Loop  Corinna Reynolds Traces of Pathways  Daniel Bell Growing Blackness

At a Distance looks at remote methods of communication and relates this to the mysterious twinning of electrons in quantum entanglement where particles link in a way that they instantly affect each other, even over vast expanses. Einstein famously called this phenomenon ‘spooky action at a distance’. Filmed on 29th March 2019 in Cornwall as the iconic Lizard Lighthouse powers up its lamp, solitary figures using semaphore flags sign ‘We Are One’ out across the ocean in the hope the message will be echoed back. Drawing on the physical language of print that embodies touch, separation and mirroring the flags have been printed using hand painted dye sublimation inks applied via a heat press. This process transfers the ink from a paper matrix onto the substrate textile. The image passes momentarily across space in a dematerialized state as vapour before being reformed as its mirror opposite.

Research visit to Hartland Magnetic Observatory. I am very grateful to The British Geological Survey for allowing me access to the site and particularly to Tom who shared his knowledge and gave a fascinating tour of the observatory. He was a little perplexed by my request to see the obelisk with the azimuth mark determined by observations of Polaris as he thought this description was a slight exaggeration of what was actually present. The ‘obelisk’ is almost hidden in thick undergrowth and impenetrable woodland so this object, just glimpsed amongst the trees remains an enigma.

Hartland was established in 1955 and is part of a network of international observatories sharing information with governments and industry, the charts of the shifting magnetic field are also publicly available. The buildings are made of lime bricks and timber, with concrete flooring and roofing of copper.

The Earth’s magnetic field acts as a shield against potentially harmful charged particles from outer space. It is also holds clues to the planet’s deep interior and geological history which are inaccessible to direct observations.

Magnetic declination is the angular difference between magnetic north and geographical or true north for any point on the earth’s surface. The British astronomer Sir Edmund Halley was interested in the magnetic field and knew about declination based on the observations of sea captains and explorers in various parts of the world. He made two scientific voyages in the Atlantic Ocean as captain of the HMS Paramore between 1698 and 1700 when he charted declination in the Atlantic and from his observations published the first geomagnetic field map in 1701. His observations involved recording the position of celestial objects and the angular distance of the sun on the horizon.

I am intrigued to know what the middle species he encountered between a bird and a fish might be. Penguins with long swan necks?

Alexander von Humboldt determined that the magnetic field increased in intensity with distance from the equator based on magnetic field observations during his scientific journeys 250 years ago. He initiated coordinated observations across the globe and thus laid the foundation for international data exchange and collaboration.

Observation is essential to gain insight into the complexities of the geomagnetic field which is created by a combination of three separate fields. The main field is generated in the earth’s core, the second from electrical currents caused by solar weather as cosmic particles bounce off the Earth’s main field charging the surrounding ionosphere and thirdly from the magnetisation of the surrounding geology of the rocky mantle and crust.

The purpose of a magnetic observatory is to measure the size, direction and changes to the natural magnetic field at the surface of the earth. There is no clear separation between north and south currents at the equator as many diagrams suggest, everything just gets a bit muddled with tangled currents.

The fluctuations in the geomagnetic component fields occur over hugely different timescales, changing by the second as we orbit the sun, to the yearly drifting of magnetic poles and the millennia of deep geological time. To study these changes an observatory must make measurements at exactly the same point over a long period of time.

Activity in the ionosphere causes a compass needle to shift slightly throughout the day but these changes, although rapid, are very small, so the instruments measuring these fluctuations must be very sensitive and operate in an environment free from man made magnetic contamination which is why I was advised to park some way from the observatory.

Rapid changes in the geomagnetic field due to magnetic storms can impact navigation data which is particularly important for the oil industry that uses this data for accurate drilling references. Data monitoring solar variability can also help studies into the mechanisms of climate change. It has been noticed that the Sun’s coronal magnetic field has doubled over the last century and this may have an effect on cloud formation which has an impact on warming the planet.

Today at Hartland, the intensity and direction of the magnetic field is sampled using one manual and two automated instruments. A fluxgate magnetometer (variometer) is used to measure variations in the direction of the field every second. It has copper coils and three orthogonal sensors (measuring north, east and vertical). This instrument is extremely sensitive, mounted on a marble block on a pillar set into the bedrock to avoid tilting, it must be kept at a constant 23C temperature. It is housed in a special building with thermally insulated inner chambers within inner chambers, isolated in the dark, it is only visited once a year. We didn’t even walk too close to the building which appeared to have no door.

The second automated instrument is a proton precession magnetometer to measure the strength of the field. This also has its own building and new equipment is being tested here. As new instruments are introduced previously unseen minute fluctuations are revealed.

The manual instrument is a fluxgate theodolite housed in the Absolute Hut looking out of the North facing window. It sits on a lime brick and concrete pillar. This instrument has a magnetic sensor mounted on the non-magnetic telescope of the theodolite to detect when it is perpendicular to the magnetic field vector. True north is determined by reference to a fixed mark of known azimuth. This was the obelisk though today it is determined by GPS.

Absolute and variable measurements are combined to give a full record of the field.

It used to be that all the measurements were made by hand and this took time and skill to produce accurate results. The beautiful old instruments used still sit in the buildings at Hartland.

The Dye Coil measured the strength of the field in the vertical direction, using a coil that vibrates in the presence of a magnetic field as the sensing element. The Schuster-Smith magnetometer measured the strength of the field in the horizontal direction, using a magnet, a mirror and a light source to make a sensitive detector. The decinometer measured the angle between true and magnetic north using a freely suspended magnet and a theodolite to measure the angles. Three Danish LaCour variometers were kept in the recording house, each measuring the strength of the field, one for the north-south component, another for east-west and one for the vertical component of the field. All three used magnets attached to mirrors, which were free to rotate in the Earth’s magnetic field. A thin beam of light shone onto each mirror was reflected back onto a rotating drum covered in photographic paper. The drum driven by clockwork rotated once a day.

There are also three satellites which monitor the magnetic field from space (though these may only have about three more years of useful life). ESA’s ‘Swarm’ mission is dedicated to the study of the mysteries of the magnetic field which although invisible, together with electric currents in and around Earth, generates complex forces that have immeasurable impact on everyday life. 

Using measurements from ESA’s Earth Explorer Swarm mission, scientists have developed a new tool that links the strength and direction of the magnetic field to the flight paths of migrating birds. This new research means that the study of animal movement can now combine tracking data with geophysical information and lead to new insights on migration behaviour.

Hartland Observatory is situated on the dramatic North Devon Coast with stunning local geology. When the Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago from the collision, accretion and compression of matter it was rock all the way through. Heat from the massive violence of formation along with radioactive decay caused Earth to get hotter and hotter. After about 500 million years as a rocky lump it reached the melting point of iron. Known as the iron catastrophe this liquifying caused planetary differentiation to occur as lighter material rose to the surface becoming the mantle and crust while heavy metals sank to the core becoming the churning dynamo powering the magnetic field.

During my visit the weather was kind and so I was able to fly my drone around the cliffs and rocky bays. I am still terrified of disaster every time I take it out, compounded by almost getting caught out by the incoming tide but I did get some useful footage for my ‘Belly of a Rock’ video sculpture I am working on.

When night falls after a warm day at certain times of year bioluminescence can be experienced at high tide in Hartland Quay. A young woman, and her mother (who swims across the bay at night here regularly) invited us into the pitch darkness to see the green sparks fly as we splashed in the rising water. It was incredible to witness. Swimming in the water limbs are coated in a luminescent glow. I tried to film the flashes on my phone and thought I had been unsuccessful as what I captured appeared totally dark. However, back at home I tried pulling out what information there was on each frame and managed to get a film sequence that might not show exactly what I saw but has an essence of the experience.

Visit to The King’s Observatory built by George III for the purpose of observing the transit of Venus across the sun in 1769. This observation allowed measurement of the distance from Earth to the sun, later named as the astronomical unit at around 150 million kilometres (8.3 light minutes).

It is now a family home and so the decor although representative of Georgian taste does not reflect the working laboratory that it once was.

Fascinating to discover it was also the site of the meridian line marked true north-south by two obelisks either side of the west room which housed a tracking telescope. There is a third obelisk due south from the east room which housed a mural quadrant used to measure angles. It wasn’t possible to walk over to the obelisks as the Observatory is in the middle of a golf course now, but there is a path to them via the Old Deer Park which I will walk another day. An accurate clock here provided standard time to the government before the task was transferred to Greenwich Observatory.

In 1842 it was renamed Kew Observatory and taken over by The British Association for the Advancement of Science. The Meteorological Office was based here, making regular records of the weather from 1773 until 1980. It was also home to the National Physical Laboratory between 1900 and 1914 when scientific instruments were checked for accuracy and stamped with KO, a hallmark of excellence if they passed.

The two huts remaining in the grounds were used for meteorological and magnetic observations and are built with no nails which might interfere with the instruments used within.

Francis Ronalds, director at Kew Observatory from 1842, invented several camera designs subsequently used in both weather forecasting and in understanding the perennial perturbations in terrestrial magnetism. Photography was used early on in its development for use in scientific investigations. Ronalds’ first instrument captured observations from his atmospheric electricity apparatus. He went on to record atmospheric pressure and temperature using the same method and had soon extended his approach to geomagnetism. His magnetographs “established the standard technique employed for magnetic observatory recording worldwide for more than a century” – Encyclopedia of Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism.

In 1908 the geomagnetic instruments were relocated to the magnetic observatory established at Eskdalemuir in Scotland to undertake magnetic work for which Kew was no longer suitable after the advent of electrification in London led to interference with their operations.

Ronalds had also established an atmospheric electricity observing system at Kew with a long copper rod protruding through the cupola dome of the observatory connected to electrometers and electrographs to manually record the data.

Lord Kelvin later installed an updated electrical observation system and CTR Wilson (the inventor of the cloud chamber) set up a secondary system using different principles which has been useful in historical air pollution research.

I am extremely grateful to Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford Peter Hore for spending time chatting on zoom with me about his fascinating research into the ability of birds to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field.  There is a link to a YouTube lecture by Peter on Radical pair mechanism of magnetoreception here.

Research confirms there is a chemical reaction in the bird’s eye sensitive to magnetic fields as weak as that of the Earth. This happens in an array of reactant molecules which can be changed into extremely short lived radical pairs which are magnetically sensitive. The reaction in the molecules to produce radical pairs is triggered by light from the sun or stars. It is thought that this chemical compass is sensitive to direction not intensity of the field and may use the energy from blue/green photons to power this reaction. During this reaction, as the bird changes direction, some radical pairs perform one way and others another creating difference across the array of molecules which is detected by the bird.

My question to Peter was to ask for his thoughts on whether a bird’s ability to ‘see’ the magnetic field manifests itself visually and if he has any understanding of what the bird experiences. He had to confess that how this sense is experienced by birds is not known but he had done some speculative modelling with a PhD student representing the field as fluctuating visual contour lines mapped over the landscape.

The birds eye is very complex and so there is still a lot to be learned about how this ability functions. Bird’s retinas have rods that are sensitive to light intensity and cones sensitive to red, blue and green wavelengths of light like us but they are also sensitive to ultra violet light. There are also double cones in the bird’s eye and their function is not clear, it could be that these are seconded for magnetic reception at night when they are not active.

Often birds fly high above the clouds when migrating and starlight appears to be enough to trigger the reaction in the molecules. In normal sight chemical messages are sent from the retina to visual processing centres within the central nervous system via ganglion cells. There are many of these ganglion cells in the birds eye and it may be they send the information bypassing any rods or cones. Studies on the retina show a reaction to the magnetic field when blue light is present but the activity has not been traced from the retina to a specific part of the brain yet which might determine if this sensitivity does manifest itself visually.

It is very difficult to imagine a sense we do not have.

Learning the migratory route and destination is vital to birds survival in many cases. Often the young bird will have to undertake the first migratory journey on its own, its parents having left earlier. These instinctive instructions for the journey are passed on from one generation to the next. The genetic instructions are quite broad, leading to a large designated destination zone which could be within a 200 mile radius. However, when returning, along with the hereditary instinct using the stars and sun to navigate the birds also have learnt the magnetic map and can return to the exact spot they left as a fledgling. Young birds in a planetarium will follow the stars if they are rotating correctly.

Peter is a chemist so his interest is in the chemical reactions of the radical pairs but he is part of a wider research group that also looks at this behaviour in bats and fish.

I also asked his thoughts on the human capacity to sense the magnetic field. Unfortunately, although we have cryptochromes in many of our cells we do not have the particular molecule Riboflavin which is the one activated by blue light to become magnetically sensitive. Whether we once had this molecule and lost it or birds evolved this molecule separate to our evolution is not understood but he did believe current research on human brain alpha wave activity in response to the magnetic field might throw up some interesting ideas to look at. A speculative approach to gaining sensitivity to the magnetic field may be by transplanting a tiny compass as used in a mobile phone onto the body, setting it to vibrate when pointing north. The body may ‘learn’ to recognise north in this way.

Listening to The Life Scientific with guest David Eagleman has shed further light on what might be possible as his research shows the human brain can be trained to receive input from alternative sources, for example learning to hear through the skin. He believes it will be perfectly possible for us to experience new senses in the future, including magnetoreception.

Work in Progress

I have been scouring the internet for tips on casting a concrete obelisk and getting an idea of the dimensions. I am thinking about using aerated concrete, for lightness but also to give an appearance of the texture of volcanic rock.

Chemical conversation tests for the video sculpture Belly of a Rock inspired by Italo Calvino The Spiral in The Complete Cosmicomics. “The water was a source of information, reliable and precise [ ] full of substances and sensations and stimuli”

I have been testing paper clay recipes and shapes for the video sculpture Belly of a Rock which will be somewhere between a rock and a mollusc.

Out of Studio

Visit to Richard Saltoun Gallery to see Haptic Vision a retrospective of artists Jo Bruton and Rosa Lee working in the 1980’s and 90’s creating paintings that encourage the eye to wander across a richly textured surface of optical illusions. “The necessity of ‘making’, of being within that space as a primary concern, where the Subject is nearby and woven into the repetitions and patterns of everyday life.” – Jo Bruton, 2022

Eternally Yours at Somerset House reflects upon the hope and healing which can be found in the memories and stories that everyday objects hold in our lives. The repair becomes a shared experience expanding the idea of bonding to include the emotional connection.

I really liked the DIY sensors and data gathering device created by Superflux. Re-imagining technology as a useful tool for communities to gather and share information on the environment, monitor local air pollution and be active in creating a just and equitable society.

New River Folk is the outcome of an Engine House Residency by Laura Copsey and Philip Crewe at the new Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration about to be developed at New River Head, Clerkenwell. This site was part of an artificial watercourse opened in 1613 to supply water to London at first through overground wooden pipes. When more pressure was needed a six-sail windmill pumped water from the site. After storm damage to the windmill in 1720 horses were harnessed to turn the wheel and power the pump. The round base of the windmill remains, and is the oldest construction of its kind in central London. The artists drew on local history around the site, creating an archeology expanding on the lives of Mole Catcher William ‘Mollitrappe’ Smythe, Well-Keeper Black Mary Woolaston and Tankard-Bearer Joan Starkey. They also collaborated with the river itself to create 16mm film imagery and recordings.

I was fascinated by the crystals that had formed on the bricks in the old windmill. The salt crystal growing experiment I set up while planning an exhibition proposal is still sitting in my studio – if it is still growing it is doing so very slowly, the initial growth was surprisingly fast.

Reimagining Joya is an exhibition at Thames-side Gallery inspired by the experiences and artistic responses of a group of artists who have all participated in Joya: Art + Ecology / AiR residency. The curators, Olga Suchanova, Tere Chad and Barbara Slavikova, have selected a body of works which explore the way we inhabit, survey, feel, and relate to the natural landscape and its living creatures.

Cornelia Parker at Tate Britain. Simple materials, deconstructed and presented immaculately. I was in awe of the invisible framing of her linen squares and wire grids where the objects appear held against the glass as if by magic. Many works are born in violence, condense violence into form or render it impotent. These include Bullet Drawings using lead from bullets melted down and drawn into wire; shotgun sawn off by criminals sawn up by police; handgun used by criminals precipitated to rust by science engineers. Gentler work included the back of button cards appearing as coded messages or star charts – something I was very familiar with as a child growing up in a village drapers shop.

Forest: Wake this Ground at The Arnolfini, Bristol showing works by Rodrigo Arteaga, Mark Garry, Alma Heikkilä, Eva Jospin, Jumana Manna, Zakiya Mckenzie, David Nash, Maria Nepomuceno, John Newling, Rose Nguyen, Ben Rivers, Ai Weiwei, and Hildegard Westerkamp.

Rodrigo Arteaga burned drawing series Monocultures and Fallen Tree documenting the radical change in the forest floor and threatened indigenous species.

John Newling extracts of soil form his own garden reveals a surprising diversity of minerals in the many colours of the balls and cores. The Night Books burning forests, made from pulped textscoal dust and crushed charcoal worryingly notes that the work physically released carbon through the process of making. The vertical strata reminds me of the cliffs at Hartland Bay.

Ai Weiwei cast from the ancient and endangered Pequi Vinagreiro tree (found in the Bahian rainforest), reflect both the uprootedness of arboreal species and the displacement of people.

Ben Rivers film Look Then Below shot beneath the Mendip hills and ancient woodland in Somerset, imagines a dystopian but seductive future.

Eva Jospin Forêt Palatine, made from recycled cardboard, at once evokes folklore and decay. I liked the surface texture which in parts almost looked volcanic.

Paths of Resistance by Tracy Hill is a site-specific fabric installation in response to magnetic fields measured in the space at Arnolfini as part of the IMPACT 12 programme of events. The work explores the hidden energies that shape our experience of the world.

New work has been framed – these pieces consider the potential for the human eye to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field. Research shows birds have this capability activated by molecules in the retina of the eye when excited by blue light. The molecules produce radical pair electrons sensitive to the magnetic field and as these molecules are found within the photoreceptor cells it is possible birds may visualise the magnetic field lines to aid navigation. A similar molecule is also found in the human eye and I am speculating that this is a sense we may once have experienced and could tap into again. It is of course the brain that must receive a signal from the eye by which we see. Independently of the cryptochrome molecule, research monitoring alpha wave activity shows the human brain does appear to be sensitive to a magnetic field albeit unconsciously.

The Compass Eye Etching with chinagraph pencil, magnets, iron filings

Pole Receptor 2022 27 x 27 x 3 cm Etching, magnet and iron filings

Framework made a neat job of the frames enabling the magnets to be released to reset the iron filings if necessary. The Compass Eye doesn’t have glass and maybe that was a mistake but I prefer the thin frame.

Progress is being made on new work Breath of Stars. This will be a screen based work triggered by cosmic ray activity. Every time an event is registered by a photomultiplier attached to a 5cm square piece of plastic scintillator, a star burst video image will flash up on the screen. The size of the starburst will correspond to the energy of the particle that has just arrived from space. The starburst videos are made in Adobe After Effects using footage from my cloud chamber experiments.

I have got some help with coding from gaming programmer Jamie Howard so am not feeling so out of my depth in the python maze. One problem we may have though is the shortage of Raspberry Pi processors. It could be months before we are able to get one with a high enough spec to process the video layering. In the meantime I am testing ideas and creating video clips.

It was wonderful to see so many people visiting the first Open Studios at Thames-side since 2019 despite the rail strike difficulties that weekend. The Compass Eye was hanging in the Thames-side Gallery Studio Holders Showcase exhibition. Thank you to everyone who came to visit and found their way to my studio, it was great to discuss everything from Plato to Planck.

Super happy to have my video Cosmic Chiasmus: crossing the universe included in the May Fair Showreel screening at the very smart May Fair Theatre as part of Mayfair Art Weekend. The departure point for the curated selection was the word ‘PROCESS’, which was inspired by the video work by Wolf Vostell, Auto-Faber (1973). It was a great experience to see all the amazing nominated films and meet the selectors -Elisa Tosoni, Angel Leung and Eugene Macki and art weekend project manager Cheri Silver.

What a lovely write up in the Winchester School of Art Yearbook 2022 from one of the Fine Art students on the Images In The Making sessions that I ran.

I am delighted that my installation The Forms has been selected for exhibition in the splendid Wells Cathedral as part of Wells Art Contemporary 2022.

Twelve aluminium plates in the shape of pentagons that together make up the net of a dodecahedron have been deep etched with imagery taken from data visualisation of dark matter provided to me by KIPAC, Stanford University. The etching process used a screen printed sugar lift technique where the bite was allowed to penetrate completely through the plate leaving holes in some areas.

Excited to be selected for a satellite exhibition at the international print conference IMPACT12 to be installed at a former police station in Bristol. At a distance will be shown in The Anxiety of Interdisciplinarity, an exhibition which seeks to reframe printmaking as a site of interdisciplinarity – a testing ground for ‘The important work…done at the surfaces between adjacent disciplines’ (Carter, 1998).

Drawing on the physical language of print that embodies touch, separation and mirroring the semaphore flags in this work have been printed using hand painted dye sublimation inks applied via a heat press. This process transfers the ink from a paper matrix onto the substrate textile. The image passes momentarily across space in a dematerialized state as vapour before being reformed as its mirror opposite.

Out of Studio

Billed as an immersive experience like no other Dreamachine offers a unique journey into the potential of your mind. Stimulated by strobe lighting playing rhythms on your eyelids and spatial sound fed directly into your ears, your mind creates its own images behind closed eyes. Inspired by a 1959 invention from artist–inventor Brion Gysin it has been reimagined by Collective Act, in collaboration with Turner Prize-winning artists Assemble, Grammy and Mercury nominated composer Jon Hopkins, and a team of leading technologists, scientists and philosophers.

It was pretty amazing. From a deep orange glow of swirling matter kaleidoscopic shapes emerge with geometric patterns that form and explode into vibrant pulsating honeycomb structures. Felt sure I was seeing some of my recent work in there. Swept away on a tide of colour with a big smile it was like a roller coaster ride through the forming of a technicolour universe. Wonderful.

Interesting to read that the frequency range of light emitted by Brion Gysin’s Dream Machine corresponds to alpha waves, electrical oscillations normally present in the human brain while relaxing. The pulsating light stimulates the optical nerve and alters the brain’s electrical oscillations. I have been looking at scientific research that explores a connection between the Earth’s magnetic field and human vision when stimulated by blue or polarised light depending on the orientation of the viewer. The human brain’s alpha waves can be seen to react to the local geomagnetic field. Some research correlates the nature of our dreams to magnetic field activity with calmer dreams resulting from high activity and more bizarre dreams when activity is low.

Going from Dreamachine to Libby Heaney’s quantum world of morphing fluid shapeshifting worlds The Evolution of Ent @Arebyte was a nice continuation of mind bending immersion.

Ent-er. Ent-anglements. Ent-ropy. Ent-wining. Ent- hralling. Ent-icing.

Looking at the potential futures created by quantum computing where the digital mode of binary gives way to superposition and quantum entanglement. Daniel Cavalcanti has provided a useful quantum glossary in the exhibition catalogue. Explaining superposition as like looking through a window and seeing outside and yourself reflected simultaneously, two configurations happening at the same time.

I was very excited to visit The World of Stonehenge at The British Museum to see the Nebra Sky Disc, having been introduced to the existence of this amazing object by archaeoastronomer Carolyn Kennett while on the Lizard Point Residency in 2019. Found by metal detectorists in Germany the gold used in this ancient map of the cosmos can be traced to Cornwall.

Carolyn explaining the history of this most ancient of cosmological objects.

The actual disc was much larger than I expected and almost translucently thin.

Six thousand years ago in the final 1,500 years of the stone age was the British Neolithic period. A time of stone axes for chopping. Woodlands cleared for farming. Stone held meaning. Offerings were made to spirits. Hundreds of stone and wooden circles were raised across the land. A cosmic inversion, connecting earth to sky. The first stones were brought to Stonehenge about 5000 years ago to create a burial ground which was transformed 500 years later into the symbolic site where the large sarsen stones were placed in alignment with the sun as it rises at midsummer solstice and sets in midwinter. Some astonishing objects in the exhibition, the power of the sun celebrated and reflected in gold.

I had high hopes for Our Time on Earth exhibition in the Barbican Curve – the aim was for technology to bring us closer to nature and highlight our place as one species among millions of others, striving to live together in a delicate balance. There was some enticing imagery and interesting ideas but as an experience it was tech overload, information overload all crammed into quite a tight space. Too much to take in and too removed from a lived time on Earth for me to engage and absorb anything meaningful.

Postwar Modern at the Barbican Gallery explores the art produced in Britain between 1945 and 1965 in the wake of a cataclysmic war. Including; Denis Williams Painting in Six Related Rhythms 1954; Eduardo Paolozzi Will Man Outgrow The Earth? collage form the series Bunk 1952/1971; the lovely Aphra Shemza’s grandfather Anwar Jalal Shemza painting fusing Western ideas of abstraction with Eastern influence and Gustav Metzger Liquid Crystal Environment  made using heat-sensitive liquid crystals that are placed between glass slides and inserted into projectors where they are are rotated to create movement within the liquid causing the crystals to change colour as they are heated and cooled.

I was fascinated to learn about the numbering system used by Cistercian Monks while visiting the impressive ruins of 12th century Cleeve Abbey in Somerset. A single cypher can represent numbers up to 9999.

The abbey church was destroyed by Henry VIII during the dissolution in 1536 but the cloister buildings, gatehouse, 15th century refectory and 13th century heraldic tiles survived destruction as they were being used as farm buildings at the time and it’s ancient tiled floor was protected from the elements by a cabbage field.

Lode – a way or path, a watercourse, a vein of metallic ore.

A lodestone is a naturally occurring magnet possibly created by a lightning strike. Early compasses were made of lodestone suspended on a cord.

Magnetite is a common mineral that has an attraction to a magnet but is not magnetic in itself.

The image shows magnetite, sold on eBay as a Lodestone though at £2 what did I expect.

Fluid activity hidden deep in the Earth’s interior can be visualised through plotting the magnetic field and its fluctuations.

The geomagnetic field, generated by the Earth’s molten core, varies through time; the magnetic poles migrate, go on excursions or reverse polarity. During these periods of flux the strength of the magnetic field changes and this phenomenon is recorded in archaeological artifacts, volcanic rocks, and sediments. The mineral deposits of stalactites store a paleomagnetic history of declination (the deviation of magnetic from geographic north).

Thinking about how magnetic pole reversals are stored in geology. I am modelling some paper clay rocks for future filming visualising the magnetic field using iron filings.

Early navigators using the compass around the 15th century became aware that geomagnetic north would roam position. In 1701 the first map charting the magnetic field declination was produced by British astronomer Edmund Halley.

In the 19th century the study of geomagnetism became one of many passions for explorer polymath Alexander von Humboldt who studied

“what keeps the innermost of the world together, how all is woven together”

and was the first to connect climate with interactions between atmosphere, oceans, land and plant ecology. From meticulous observations he noticed the Earth’s magnetic field intensity increases from the equator to the pole, and that it was also influenced by auroras and solar activity causing magnetic storms.

Magnetic observatories to monitor the Earth’s magnetic field were set up around the globe including one at Greenwich which had to relocate twice due to infrastructure interference (electric railways) and is now based in Devon with a permanent azimuth mark on a concrete obelisk viewed from the north window of the Absolute Hut. I wonder if it is possible to visit.

Magnetotactic bacteria align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate using nanoparticles of magnetite crystals covered in biological material called magnetosomes. Each nanoparticle is about 100,000 times smaller than a grain of rice. They are mostly found in water and sediment with little or no oxygen. It has been found that magnetosomes can be biodegraded (dissolved) in human stem cells losing magnetism at first but then reforming into human cells with magnetic sensitive qualities.

There is a daily variation in the magnetosphere caused by sunlight hitting the ionosphere, a layer of the atmosphere about 1000km up. The electrical conductivity of this layer is affected by the solar wind which pressures and squashes the field on the sunlit side while creating a magnetotail pluming from the dark side of the Earth.

Capturing garden activity through the solar cycle with a spycam.

The rotation of the Earth around its axis results in a molecular clock evolved by organisms in alignment with the solar cycle. The Earth’s magnetic field can influence animals’ circadian clocks, through the photoreceptor cryptochrome, which is activated by blue light.

I have recently acquired a drone and have been for a couple of practice flights in Richmond Park’s designated area taking along a few pentagon mirrors. Excited by the possibilities.

Up at 5am to see the tiny points of light that are Venus and Jupiter approaching their conjunction which they performed the following morning hidden by clouds

Research trip to RSPB Snettisham in North Norfolk to see the Whirling Wader Spectacle. The high spring tides push the birds from their feeding grounds on the mudflats of The Wash onto the lagoons of the reserve. The spectacle occurs when the tide is super high during daylight hours in early spring or late autumn when the birds are migrating to and from this site. It is surprising how fast the tide comes in. On arrival in the early evening the sea is a distant strip of light.

Suddenly the gullies are filling and the first murmurations of knots are forming low over the incoming water. The speed of the birds is extraordinary. I was totally ill equipped to capture the spectacle on video.

Fascinating research discussed in the webinar Scientific American live: Bird Migration and Song featuring Professor of Chemistry University of Oxford, Peter Hore, an expert on magnetoreception.

Radicals are molecules that contain an odd number of electrons and are therefore unstable. For most molecules the electrons are paired which cancels out the magnetic force. Birds use three different compasses to navigate across the globe; the sun, the stars and the magnetic field. The Artic tern makes the longest migratory journey, a staggering 25,000 miles.

The theory that birds may use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate began in the middle of the 19th century, but experiments in Germany with European Robins in the 1960s were the first to prove the connection. The Earth’s magnetic field is extremely weak so the mechanism that can detect this weak force must be very sensitive. Because free radicals are very unstable it doesn’t take much energy to have big effects. The particular cryptochrome molecule used is found in the retina of the eye with the photoreceptor cells. Blue light shined onto Cryptochrome 4 produces radical pairs which are sensitive to the magnetic field. It is excited by blue light but does not respond to red light. The molecules work like a pendant compass, distinguishing the direction of the magnetic field towards pole or equator. This feature arises from the spin direction of the free radical pairs. Both radicals may spin in the same direction or one may spin one way and the other the opposite. There is a lot of processing in the eye before a signal is sent to the brain to act upon.

It is possible birds form a visual perception of the magnetic field. The cone cells in the eye are used by day but may be taken over at night for navigation as this is when birds migrate. Light pollution and electromagnetic noise pollution such as AM radio masts can cause disorientation.

I still have questions about how the birds know where to head for. They may have a map but they still need a destination.

Stunning North Norfolk coastline. It’s so flat here that cliffs are unexpected. Hunstanton Beach was once under a tropical sea 108 million years ago when sea levels were 200m higher. Somewhere in these strata evidence of magnetic pole reversals will be stored.

So much to explore at the National Physical Laboratory Open Day but my favourite room was Magnetic Materials and Sensors. They don’t allow any photography so I can’t share some of the amazing experiments I saw but I have been able to recreate my favourite as it was also the simplest; a magnet dropped into a copper pipe creates an electric current as it falls which gently slows its progress through the tube. So cool. I will be filming this.

Experiments with lenses. It’s often the way that having spent time on a proposal that doesn’t get accepted those ideas do not get wasted but ultimately feed into new work.

Testing ‘The Forms’ as a floor piece.

The immutable truths Plato discovered in geometry belong to the realm of abstract thought and ideals he called The Forms. Twelve pentagons form a dodecahedron which Plato defined as ‘a fifth construction, which the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven.’ Today it is dark matter that science believes holds the stars in the heavens. In visualisations of dark matter created from cosmological data we see familiar organic patterns emerge; the fronds of dark matter spanning between galaxies could be the spreading branches of trees or the veins under our skin.

Thanks to KIPAC Stanford University for the data visualisations.

Enjoyed a one day 3D Geometry class with Leila Dear at the Princes School of Traditional Arts. I gained so much from the RCA exchange week here that fed into my work for the past several years that I thought a refresher would be useful – and that was before I knew we would be making geometric bubbles. Irresistible.

Out of Studio

Reflections at Workplace Gallery

Sculpture by women artists Nicola Ellis, Hsi-Nong Huang, Patricia Ayres and Olivia Bax.

All works offer up a satisfying conjunction of materiality and form but especially loving Nicola’s ‘Quite a Structure’ which is like a slice of the Earth’s molten core.

HEAVEN NEITHER BURNING FARTHER at The Crypt, St. John on Bethnal Green

Erika Blumenfeld writes “The material comprising our bodies shares cosmic origins with the material comprising the planets, asteroids and comets in our solar system. Scientifically, this material, having derived from distant stars across time, threads back to the primordial material that emerged moments after our universe burst into being. Culturally, our star gazing has filled us with wonder across all civilizations, sparking art and architecture, philosophy and science, mythology, folklore as well as navigation and place-making”.

Visual journeys have been created using the archive, modern science, performative poetry, scanned glacier-ice sent by image transmission, laser-based mapping originally sourced from the Rosetta space mission, the use of historic adaptations, the layering of earthly minerals, and a hunt for asteroid fragments. Held in a crypt under-ground the exhibition takes a poignant look at the myth and science that surround comets, which in theory brought life to Earth but could also end it.

Artists: Julie F Hill, Leah Beeferman, Barry Stone, Pedro Torres, Fryd Frydendahl, Ports Bishop, Claudio Pogo & Magdalena Wysocka Curated by Lucy Helton

Fascinating and beautiful work in this subterranean gateway to the cosmos which rewards following up each artist’s research.

POST TOTEM at OHSH Projects pop up on Oxford Street, curated by Adam Dix and Dale Adcock.
I found the concept of this exhibition very appealing. Reaching back to what connects us. Some innate sense of the sacred.

‘Imagine an artist holding the metaphorical hand of an artist from the previous generation and that artist, doing the same, and so on, back through time, back 30 to 40 thousand years into the unimaginably distant past, when we made the great cave paintings of Lascaux and Maros-Pangkep karst. This imaginative exercise creates an image of an unbroken woven human connection, stretching back through time uniting, individuals into a group, linked by imagination, action and materials.’

Artists showing: Dale Adcock, Simon Burton, Adam Dix, Tim Ellis, Lisa Ivory, Simon Burton, Rachel Howard, Henry Hussey, Dean Melbourne, Yelena Popova, Chantal Powell, Joanna Rajkowska, Alexis Soul Gray, Suzanne Treister.

Seth Price – Art Is Not Human at Sadie Coles

An interesting entanglement of hand and digital process. Raw paintings are photographed and imported to a 3D digital space of geometric shapes, tubes and directional lighting. The effects are then exported and printed onto the original painting.

Melanie Manchot Alpine Diskomiks at Parafin.

Questioning the mediation of the mountain experience. A mountain skyline created from album covers and soundscape from the combined mix of recorded content. Imagine a steady build of music to accompany the climb to a dramatic mountain peak and the overwhelming crescendo as you reach that majestic summit of the sublime. Downstairs choreographed snowploughs score grooves in looping folkdance sequence.

This painting by Luchita Hurtado at Hauser and Wirth made me think of the practical demonstration by Brian Cox showing that in a vacuum a feather and a rock (bowling ball) would fall at the same speed.

 “The reason the bowling ball and the feather fall together is because they’re not falling. They are standing still. There is no force acting on them at all.”

“(Einstein) reasoned that if you couldn’t see the background, there would be no way of knowing that the ball and the feathers were accelerating toward the Earth.”

Larry Bell at Hauser and Wirth

‘Although we tend to think of glass as a window, it is a solid liquid that has at once three distinctive qualities: it reflects light, it absorbs light, and it transmits light all at the same time.’ Larry Bell

Everything is Made of Light at Bermondsey Project Space. The artists refer to Jacques Rancière, in his essay, Are Some Things Unrepresentable?, who scrutinizes the challenges faced by images in depicting the world around us.

Mark Kasumovic tackles the problem of trying to represent the invisible through a juxtaposition of images of spaces of discovery and text listing scientific non sequiturs. Mary O’Neill presents us with a world of fragments from which personal narratives must be assembled. Isabella Streffen’s work explores perception and the spaces between digital and emotional communication. Matthew Pell stretches time through capturing light in otherwise transient momentary events.

I felt very in tune with intent of the work here. Particularly Mark Kasumovic’s texts that felt like a snapshot of a research artist’s notebook. All those tantalising lines of enquiry. I liked the premise from Mary O’Neill of the introduction of creatures from the mundanity of an overlooked life, that when situated in a new context, conceive paradise.

Marcus Cope Silver Linings at Peer

Fabulous potent paintings of those vivid memories that are seared into the synapses from times of heightened emotions.

Beautiful and terrible.

Alice Bucknell Swamp City at Hoxton 253 Project Space

Like a dollop of dream topping on a large turd the work offers up a speculative future of luxury ecotourism as investment opportunity in the face of a climate crisis that feels almost inevitable.

Charlotte Johannesson Circuit at Hollybush Gardens.

“Nature speaks in symbols and signs.”

Evolution from weave to code and back again. Beautiful works full of metaphor and shared history.

Reading – Braiding Sweetgrass Robin Wall Kimmerer; reciprocity – don’t take more than you need and always give something back.

Mercurius Patrick Harpur; no easy route to the conjunction of soul, spirit and matter.

The big excitement this month was to get the cosmic ray detector assembled and working. It may not look very exciting to see an LED flash but knowing it was caused by a tiny traveller from outer space I do find quite something to acknowledge.

The detector uses a small slab of plastic scintillator as a detection medium and a silicon photomultiplier (SiPM) for light collection from charged particles as they pass through the scintillator. Flashing the plastic block with light from a UV torch causes a big scintillation burst.

The signal from the photomultiplier is sent to an Arduino microprocessor which measures the amplitude of the signal. The small OLED screen updates every second and an LED flashes every time an event is registered.

I have the skills and patience of ABL Circuits to thank for soldering the tiny SMT components to the PCB boards and then working out which part had the fault and replacing it so that the correct voltage was supplied to the SiPM PCB. It needed to read approximately +29.5 V as anything over 30 might damage the SiPM so it was a big relief when this was achieved.

Once I had the printed circuit boards assembled I could wrap the scintillator plastic in foil, apply optical gel and attach it to the SiPM and then wrap this in electrical tape to make it light tight. I had a little bit of soldering left to do myself and then it could be slotted together.

When I had both detectors working independently I could set them up in coincidence mode to differentiate cosmic rays from background radiation particles.

The top detector is reading all local background radiation and the bottom one is just recording cosmic rays. The lights flash in unison when a particle travels through the top and bottom detector at the same time. The top detector labelled ‘M’ I will call mother and the bottom ‘S’ I will call son, (not the historical terminology suggested).

The horizontal lines record the energy of that particle – look out for the WOW particles!

So happy to have got this far with the project, now for the difficult bit translating that signal into an action triggering an interactive artwork.

Not only can cosmic rays be observed using a cloud chamber but they also trigger the formation of everyday clouds.

The Solar Wind is made up mainly of hydrogen and helium ions (ions are the nucleus of atoms separated from their accompanying electrons) known as solar protons. Travelling at up to 5 million miles per hour, the solar wind carries a million tons of matter from the sun into space every second. When massive amounts of energy stored in the magnetic fields of the sun are suddenly released in a solar flare explosion the particles are accelerated to even greater speeds.

Coronal mass ejections fire off great clouds of hot gas and the explosions are so powerful that they also rip away knots of magnetism from the surface of the sun which are sent sweeping past Earth deflecting the path of cosmic rays that would otherwise strike our planet. This effect is called the Forbush Decrease where increased solar activity results in a reduction of cosmic rays coming from outside our solar system.

Cosmic rays are super-charged subatomic particles produced by exploding stars, black holes and other phenomena many times more violent than any solar flare explosion but one coronal mass ejection can reduce cosmic rays for a few weeks and continued solar activity can keep cosmic ray counts low for sustained periods of time.

The Sun’s magnetic field goes through a cycle where north and south poles switch places about every 11 years. It then takes another 11 years for the poles to flip back again. Sunspot activity caused by the magnetic field are affected by the solar cycle but it is hard to predict how active a cycle might be. Usually at the beginning of the cycle there are fewer sunspots causing eruptions which then increase over time reaching solar maximum in the middle of the solar cycle before gradually retuning to solar minimum before the cycle begins again. The first solar cycle to be recorded was in 1751 and we are currently in cycle 25 with peak activity expected in 2025.

Research at the Technical University of Denmark has shown that the number of comic rays reaching the Earth has a significant impact on the warming of the oceans. When solar explosions deflect the number of cosmic rays hitting our planet there is a shortage of small aerosols – the chemical specks in the air that grow until water vapour can condense on them to become the water droplets of low-level clouds. The aerosol robotic network AERONETT also noticed a slight change in the colour of sunlight during times of low cosmic ray activity and found that violet light from the Sun looked brighter than usual. They put this down to the shortage of small aerosols usually provided by the cosmic rays which scatter violet light as it passes through the air. Without the growing aerosols, low-altitude clouds begin disappearing about a week after a Forbush Decrease minimum of cosmic rays. The water remains in the atmosphere in vapour form, but unlike cloud droplets it does not get in the way of sunlight warming the ocean. During solar maximum events the decline in cosmic radiation and the loss of low cloud cover persists for long enough to warm the planet.

“The effect of the solar explosions on the Earth’s cloudiness is huge. A loss of clouds of 4 or 5 per cent may not sound very much, but it briefly increases the sunlight reaching the oceans by about 2 watt per square metre, and that’s equivalent to all the global warming during the 20th Century.” Henrik Svensmark DTU

I have been testing new configurations of magnets for a large etching/drawing work looking at magnetoreception.