Rocks and Code installation

My Rocks and Code installation explores western science's "belief" in scientific objectivity, examining the interconnected histories of uranium mining and it's human effects (specifically in Grants, New Mexico), nuclear physics, by focusing on the persuit of "pure" randomness and random numbers -- accepted in the sciences as a reliable external and absolute truth, a rare thing indeed as science is increasingly recognized to be a subjective and entirely constructed vision of the world.

The installation consists of still and video images of a former uranium mill in Grants, New Mexico (one of 24 EPA Superfund "remediation" sites in the country as of 2010), electronic/sculptural elements described below, and various related physical artifacts and texts.

The centerpiece of the installation is my Atomic Number Generator, a machine that uses the inherent randomness of the radioactive decay of natural uranium ore, mined from Grants New Mexico and elsewhere, to generate true random numbers. The machine verbalizes, in a difficult electronic voice, the numbers produced.

This work began as research for my my MFA thesis of the same title, "Rocks and Code". Work within this line of research continues, exploring fundamental assumptions about the basis of the science, in my Gas Tube Noise Generator; I started with a rigorous re-creation of the Rand Corporation's 1948 device that produced a table of random numbers in use for over half a century, and... added a bit of human fallibility into the equation.

(The production of truly random numbers is a rigorous mathematical discipline with theoretical underpinnings in physics, statistics, mathematics, biology, law, politics ancient and modern, tarot, the I Ching, religion, ... my interest here lies mainly in mid-20th-century technologies and science. For a random (sic) sampling, see my "review" of the Rand Corporation's book "A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates" (1955)).

Installation components summary