Natural phenomena streaming live to the web?
June 2, 2006 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Easily scrape-able sources of varying data on the web, ideally reflecting natural phenomena? I need some help finding sources.

I've just developed (With the help of NetMidi, Audiomulch, Python and MidiYoke) a system whereby a Python script takes constantly changing inputs from the internet, and manipulates ambient soundscapes accordingly. For instance, at the moment I have the system hooked up to METAR weather data, and increasing temperature increases the frequency of a flanger effect on a rhythm track. Inputs are also taken for air pressure, wind speed etc.

My problem is that this data isn't very interesting on a short time scale. I can sit here for three hours, watch the temperature drop 5 degrees, and this is manifest as only a very minimal change in the soundscape. In particular, METAR data is only updated every 15 minutes or so - if I was able to track individual gusts of wind it would be great, but I don't know where this sort of data may be available.

Does anyone have any ideas, with associated source URLs, of other data I could use as input? I need something that varies on the timescale of minutes, rather than hours, and which changes chaotically but not completely randomly, but I'm having trouble thinking what phenomena might be interesting to track, that fits these criteria. I'd prefer natural phenomena to something like the stockmarket. The data can be binary or categorical as well as continuous.
posted by Jimbob to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just throwing some ideas around here.

What would happen if you fed audio data in?

Two suggestions:

(1) Beatles In -> ???? Out

(2) Feed the output back into the input, with a short delay

As to data...

Earthquake data. I'm sure I've seen web pages hooked straight to seismographs.

Webcams. 'net-accesible telescopes.

Position of the planets (calculated, rather than observed, obviously)

Satellite data (sequential tiles from Google Maps)
posted by Leon at 7:04 AM on June 2, 2006

You need some love from this NSF Center (at UCLA). These guys (and gals) are building huge networked sensor arrays for measuring all kinds of natural phenomena. You should contact somebody over there and say that you're a media artist (or whatever), and that you are looking for natural data. It will be pretty easy to make some contact and have somebody send you (gigs) of real data. Now, hooking up your system to live datafeeds might be harder, but hey, they have a mandate to do community outreach and education so there is almost certainly someone there that would see the value in doing *different* things with sensor data.

I wish I remembered the name of someone I met from that center, but I got nothing.
posted by zpousman at 7:49 AM on June 2, 2006

I know that this does not directly answer your question, but reading your description reminded me of a related project that I'd read about a number of years ago on slashdot, called Peep. The idea was that this thing monitors a network and uses events to trigger rainforest-y sound clips. So for example you might hear bird chirp each time a web page is served, or a frog croak when an email was delivered, and that all these various events get layered on top of each other to produce a large soundscape. I'm not sure if this project ever went anywhere or was just a toy, or if it's even relevant at all to what you're doing, but there it is.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:41 AM on June 2, 2006

You could take samples from a volcano cam or something more specific like that.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:49 AM on June 2, 2006

Response by poster: Earthquake data sounds interesting, and thanks for reminding me of the NSF centre.
posted by Jimbob at 4:53 PM on June 2, 2006

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