Public Lab Research note

Dreaming of sensitive friends

by warren | November 21, 2014 02:01 21 Nov 02:01 | #11374 | #11374

I took these portraits in a session at the open water workshop at Propeller, in New Orleans, tonight.

Each person was asked to select a random bit of electronics off a table, and to give it a name. Then they were asked to pretend it was a sensor which solved an environmental problem they had, and to name what it sensed.

I loved the activity because everyone gave their sensors "human" names, and it sort of seemed like they were describing "imaginary friends" who could detect the kinds of pollutants or environmental metrics they wish they could see. Enjoy the photos, and thanks to everyone who participated!


Rhett and "Chip" -- who would sense what's in rain or drinking water.


John and "Maria" -- who would sense dissolved oxygen in water to indicate dumping.


@MelissaN and "Yasmin" -- who sense detect pharmaceuticals.


Chris and "Carl 2.0" -- who would sense water in soil while planting trees.


Jim and "Shelby" -- who would sense flow in a drainage ditch during flooding.


Mary and "Erin Brockovich" -- who would sense the quality of drinking water.


Miriam and "Maude" -- who would sense the presence and depth of water during floods.


Diana and "Leonardo" -- who would sense turbidity caused by sediments in water.


Lauren and "Gizmo" -- who would sense nitrogen in water during flooding.


Dan ( @danbeavers ) and "Boo" -- who would sense the temperature of the sky.


Scott ( @eustatic ) and "Guidry" -- who would sense the depth of the anoxic boundary in wetlands soil.

The full list is here, as transcribed by @stevie -- please leave a comment if I've gotten your name or any spellings wrong!



Apparently we have a long way to go before "Gizmo" will be deployed in the field. USGS has installed some optical sensors for nitrate, but they are extremely costly and short-lived in the field.

Fact Sheet:


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