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Fluid Anatomy

Form for Fluid Computer initiates artistic research to construct a prototype for a fluidic toolkit. Looking through a series of old patent reference books, throughout October and November 22, an ‘alphabet of parts’ is sketched. The alphabet consists of a series of carefully designed shapes that can guide and control streams of water through their insides.

When connected, digital & analogue circuits equivalents to those made with electronic components emerge. The shapes are guided by a physical phenomenon called the Coanda effect (named after Romanian physicist Henri Coanda) which states that fluid jets tend to get attached to convex surfaces. Each angle, curve and nozzle width is essential for the proper functioning of the final machine.

Some forms, such as the Equivalence Element, are inspired by human physiology (the oral system) and appear in organic and curvaceous morphologies. Some are logic elements like AND, OR, NOR, and NAND gates. And some come as shapes that can work with exponential values, such as amplifiers and oscillators. One essential shape is the Fluidistor, which can undergo operations of both amplification and switching like a regular transistor.

Water can embody any parameter in an analog circuit, from numbers coordinates and resources. Form for Fluid Computer looks at fluidics, an old technology equivalent in function to that of electronics to imagine a world model that runs on fluid movement.

The project is inspired by MONIAC (1949 - Bill Philips), an analogue computer that would model the workings of the UK Economy. Water (in this case symbolising money) was flowing from the main tank of the machine, named as treasury to other tanks that would represent the various ways in which a country could spend its money. A functional model of the economy appeared, in which one could predict possible outcomes in the system by looking at water movements and deposits.

The same system dynamics ideas were explored throughout the '70s when World3, an early computer program created by a team from MIT, predicted
the world's behaviour. Its 5 fundamental elements: agricultural, industrial, population, non-renewable resources, and pollution systems were interlinked in feedback loops as in the case of MONIAC, influencing each other fluidly.

World3 was able to predict societal collapse by mid 21st century and it seems that its calculations stay relevant until today. But it was also able to calculate different future scenarios by limiting for instance: consumption or pollution to reach a point where the world would appear in a state of equilibrium. The project looks at these scenarios and future possibilities and displays them through contrasting water movements in a large spatial fluidic installation.

Fluidic computers such as FLODAC (a pure fluid digital computer) stayed as alternative hardware systems until the 80s. Their advantages are easy to manufacture, timeless in function and resistant to any external environmental factors. Running materials: water or air.

Due to the increasing demand for efficiency and miniaturisation in parts, the field of fluidics was mostly abandoned leaving space for its electronic counterpart.

Form for Fluid Computer digs up in the archives of these early computers, to resurface their geometries and reflect upon the choices in technology and methods we used to form our digitalised world. Looking up at the history of computation it investigates early physical computer models and finds the use of fluidic hardware to draw a world model inspired in functionality by World3s balancing algorithms.

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