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Origin, Project Journal

01.18.17 Getting Caught Up

I have not been maintaining a journal on this project. I have done a lot of brainstorming and planning. Some of it was on paper and some on the computer, but I did not write it down. I was not certain I wanted to do it so it remained nebulous.

Last week I finally started writing a project plan. I have not been satisfied with it, but I have posted what I have. Today I will consult with Gene about my independent study. I will ask him some questions related to this project as well. Hopefully I will be able to get things moving in a more organized fashion.


01.19.17 Thinking About Goals & Practice/Planning Layers

I will be satisfied if I can simply get the resin painting of the Big Bang done. I may incorporate some representations of the multiple universes theory. I talked to Gene about it a bit. He seems to think the electronics part is pretty accessible.

I am going to buy some acrylic sheets to practice the layering of colors with. It won’t be perfect but it will give me an idea of what needs to go where. I also need to figure out how vibrant the lights are at different depths in the resin.


1.20.17 Resin & Fiber Optics Practice – Fucked it Up

I did it! Then I fucked it up.

 I set up a very cool fiber optic effect. I had two RGB LEDs. Each was hooked up to a set of fiber optics. They were embedded in resin so I could see how strong the effect would be at different depths. Then I set up a breadboard and ran a light sequencer so that the LEDs flashed the same colors until the third flash. The third flash was contrasting colors. The contrasting colors revealed that the fiber optic dots were not random, but were instead an image. I set everything up. It worked. I was so proud. Note the use of past tense. I checked the first bundle of fibers and it was perfect. All I had to do was shrink wrap the last bundle of fibers to the LED and plug it in…. one more step…. but I guess my heat gun was too hot because instead of shrinking the heat shrink tubing, I melted my fiber optics. It happened so fast! Nipped them right down to the resin. I am sad. I guess I will start over tomorrow. I will be much more careful next time.


1.21.17 Resin & Fiber Optics Practice – Not as Fucked Up

I am spending a lot of money! I keep buying little stuff as I work out this process. I understand how to paint in resin, but I am doing something fairly different than just painting. It isn’t even about layering the images. I want a 3-d painting, not just layers of 2-d images.

I poured another practice piece. It’s a struggle to get the fiber optics to do what I want. I could treat it like a star field.

 This is an instruct able page showing a version of a fiber optic star field. I have done this kind of thing before. I am using this one because it shows the way that you stick the fiber optics through your base.

Adding resin complicates things because I have to make the fibers stay in position in the resin. Since I want some very specific designs, it makes it even harder.

I tried just putting saran wrap over the mold so I could poke the fibers through and let them rest in the layer of resin. It worked the first time, but the second time it was a mess. It isn’t a reliable enough method. The fibers slide around and end up in the wrong places.

I could glue them down, but that might leave icky spots in the image.

Today I bought some coffee straws and foam. I am going to try a different system to keep the fibers where they need to be. Even if it works, there is still a problem.

I did some practice with the wet resin. I stuck toothpicks in paint and made designs. It was a bit like marbling. However, the fiber optics were very much in the way. It will take a good deal of practice to combine the wet resin work with layers of paint to get the effect I want.


01.22.17 Resin & Fiber Optics Practice, Planning/Research

Some success. The fiber optics in the resin look good. Then I burned out the LED by using a battery with too much voltage to test. I was impatient and it was easy. I need to put together a fast LED tester.

Sadly, the resin with the fiber optics does not look good. I am not sure it is going to cure. It is my fault. I mixed the resin. Then I realized I left my paint in the other room. I went to get it. Then I decided to use plain clear. I poured. See what I skipped? I skipped stirring the mixed resin. I realized what I did right away. I tried to pour it back and stir in the mold but with all the fibers I seriously doubt it worked. Since the bottom half was done, I decided to go ahead and finish it with hope that maybe it would harden. This morning it still feels tacky and weird.

The other resin piece I left out all night was a disaster. I am trying to find a cheap way to make plain rectangular molds that I can just throw away when I am done. I saw an Instructable that used sign-board. I knew it would leave marks from the lines in the board but I thought if I just used the board on the sides, it wouldn’t matter. This is likely true, except that I didn’t really seal the mold very well so the resin leaked everywhere. It was just a big flat resin pancake. I was going to try and use it anyway but I need the tray it is on for my next experiments so I just tossed it. I checked the Instructable with the Sign Material Mold again to see what they did. They hot glued his seams. He did it on the outside, but I think that would still give a bit too much seepage. I think I could just hot glue on the inside. It doesn’t really matter if the edges have bumps. I will be framing it anyway. Also, I can sand it or even cut off the edges. On my final piece, I think I am going to use Melamine. I can use silicone to seal the edges there. It will leave a mark, but only on the very far edge.

Thinking: I was planning to do the resin work at school, but the more I think about it the more problematic I think it will be. I need to have quick access to lots of stuff. I also need a very clean environment. Most importantly, I need temperature control. I may end up doing it in the kitchen. I can put a cover on the floor just in case and use the stove to keep the room warm. My house is cleaner than the IMRC. Its easier to control temperature. Also, I need to work very slowly. I will have to do a very small section each day. Its probably better to have that at home.


Things to Do or Figure Out

Fast LED/Fiber Optics tester

Better way to heat shrink the fiber optics

Make sure to give myself a generous edge allowance for framing or cutting off.

Get more trays to quickly move materials

Get large tray for work area

Need to cover floor

Electric sander

Polishing compound


Fireproof Planets

I found some fireproofing spray online. It goes over paint to make it heat and flame resistant. I think this could serve my purposes.

This morning I used a kids dinner tray and a bracelet mold to pour some practice resin. The green kids tray is the one I used on the leaky resin yesterday.

I decided I wanted to see how the resin would respond to acrylic paint if I dabbed it in the wet resin instead of mixing it thoroughly. Yesterday I noticed it was a bit like marbling so it seemed interesting. I also noticed that as the resin cures, the design changes. I filled three sections of the tray.

The first section started with clear resin (back, right, corner). Then I added resin with some metallic white mixed it. I did not give it any setting time before adding new. It did retain some separation and looks somewhat cloud like. It would be interesting to do it again now with a heavier layer of white but I don’t want to overfill it since I may use it for fiber optics practice

The second section (back, center) just has glow paint in it. I mixed it in an interesting pattern but as it cured it became round dots again. I don’t know if it will inhibit curing.

The third section (front, left corner) just has metallic silver, red, white and purple paint in it. I used toothpicks to draw designs. They shifted and changed significantly as cured. However, I kind of like the effect. It might be worth remembering for a layer of floating debris.

The fourth section (large, front, right corner) was originally the place I was squirting paint. I had more resin than I needed so I decided to add more paint and then pour the resin on top. I swirled the paint around all over. Then dribbled more paint. Then I added resin. I used a toothpick to agitate it a bit more. Stupidly, I did not take a picture of this. It shows a little in the image I took a few minutes later, but it isn’t clear just how much paint I used. After a couple of hours of setting, the paint swirled section changed dramatically. The paint has separated from the resin in many areas. It looks very cool and interesting. I have my doubts about whether it will set.

Note: I am using old resin because I have some. Resin is expensive so I don’t want to waste it. Practicing with the old stuff is worth the risk that it won’t cure well.

Sticking in Fiber Optics so that they stay STRAIGHT!

  1. Foam with coffee straws. The straws wriggle too much and I can’t see the fibers to verify.
  2. Foam alone. Too porous and too thick. Fibers bend or go in sideways
  3. Drill holes in acrylic. Better but it killed the drill bit too fast.
  4. Drill holes in cardboard. Not as good as acrylic since I can’t see but more stable and easy to drill. Sadly, this also did not work because the fibers fall right back out again.
  5. Holes in cardboard again. This time I will put the ends in glue so that when it is dry all the pieces are glued together and I can snip the fibers free when I am done.
  6. I think I should try three or even four layers of cardboard with glue on the bottom most layer to hold all the fiber optics. Longer fibers would make this easier. I will make a test run with the short fibers and three layers. If it works, I can make the real one out of wood and use screws and bolts to raise and lower the levels as needed. I wonder if I should make it so that the holes are universal so that it is reusable. I would just insert optics in new patterns each time. Maybe I could use smaller versions for special spots where I need to make a picture or something…. And… that was a bit better, until my hand jerked and the top cardboard came off in my hand. I still have 2 layers and the glue, but I am not sure I should adjust it anymore. I think longer fibers will make all the difference. If I can afford to be wasteful, I can glue them down and then use the layers to make everything straight. Then I can trim them off even before flipping the apparatus over and poking them in the resin. DAMNIT.

01.23.17 Resin Results

The resin results were a bit more interesting than I thought.

The paint drips and resin was pretty cool but it didn’t cure very well. I knew I could add small amounts of acrylic paint to resin without affecting the curing but I wasn’t sure what would happen with a larger amount. I saw an artist who paints with acrylic paint and resin but it is on canvas so it doesn’t need to cure completely. It was interesting to watch the way they two materials responded to each other. The resin seemed to force the paint to separate. That looked cool. Then the resin hardened and made bubbles of acrylic paint. Popping them was very satisfying. The wet paint oozed out of them like popping a unicorns’ pimple. I smashed them all and let it dry some more. I was able to pop the resin out of the tray but it was very soft. It might have continued to cure if I left it alone. The wet paint was till underneath. There was paint trapped in the resin and paint on top. It was pretty. I think it was useful. There could be a time when this is a very desirable process. I could create some kind of purposeful system of paint bubbles that the viewers could smash. I could also see what happens to enclosed pockets of paint. I think it could also make very interesting patterns of paint inside resin if I kept layering the resin and paint so that it was all enclosed.

The glow in the dark paint in resin was also neat, I mixed it up pretty well but the resin forced it back into paint bubbles. It does retain its glow. It looks very nice. I could probably use this technique to make some kind of star field.

The white metallic paint is the best discovery. I could use this technique to get the cosmic cloud look I want. If I pour layers of misty colors of resin into clear resin at various stages of hardening, it should look very cloud-like. I will probably try this again to see what happens.

The paint splatters look like some kind of microscope slide. Using small amounts of paint didn’t affect the resin so much (as it shouldn’t). But the resin did affect the paint. The dry patterns were very different from the wet. This could be an interesting technique to create robot bodies. They could get a very organic look.

Note: I am using old resin because I have some. Resin is expensive so I don’t want to waste it. Practicing with the old stuff is worth the risk that it won’t cure well.


01.25.17 Thinking

I have done a lot of thinking about the design of my expanding universe. I looked at other visualizations.

expanding-universe-2I like the idea of keeping the lines drawn to show the shape of the explosion. At first I thought I would actually draw them in with fiber optics, but I think instead I will simply keep the overall shape of the hole in the universe. I will begin with a tube that lays down horizontally, then turns upwards and opens up into expanding circles like drawing an anamorphic illusion of a hole. I would like to use something dense and black to create a strong separation between the universe and the nothingness behind it. The nothingness part should be clear resin with led lights and mirrors under it. I think sculpey clay should work on a small scale. It would be interesting to have other tubes coming out of the nothing space as a representation of multiple universes and multiple possibilities.

Each circular layer will have distinct sections. It will start with light coming from extremely bright LEDs inside the tube. Then I will create a disk to put in front of it to partially block the light so that the brightness spills out around it. Then I will probably add a thick, light blocking black area to represent the dark ages. Then I will add in layers of early stars, leading to galaxies. The galaxies section will be the biggest and will contain some very detailed galaxies with visible solar systems. Then it will become less detailed as it gets further away and becomes only pinpricks of stars again that we can’t see. Then I will have the last circle as a layer of dark matter. I will do this by using light blocking materials in blobby forms that get thicker until it makes the last sharp circle. The layers if resin will be blacks and blues rather than solid black. This should add depth and an idea of continuation. And infinite depth. The solid black will be around the expandinguniverse1edges with the dark matter to show the separation of the universe from the time when there was no universe.

I wonder if I could embed some kind of visualization of time moving outwards into the frame?

While I really want this to be all one image, there are too many complexities to try and do it all at once. I will likely make a series of smaller pieces containing sections of the work. That way if something doesn’t work, I have not ruined the whole piece. Once I am sure everything works, I will do it again on a larger scale. This will also allow me to work out other elements of the project so that I know how big everything needs to be.

I can create the galaxies as individual pieces and then suspend them in the resin. This will also allow me to design the lights for each one separately.

I don’t think I am going to try and reverse pour this. I think I will just start at the bottom and pour upwards. I will use glue to block the holes I drill for the lights. I don’t think it will be visible with the depth and darkness of the bottom-most layer.

I need to investigate types of LED lights. Some of them will be embedded high up in the layers as large stars, but I may try and use some kind of flat light to illuminate the whole bottom. Even black resin will need some light behind it to make the details show. Maybe I can do it with rope light the way I would illuminate stained glass. I would have to be careful to arrange organized passage for the wires coming from the fiber optics and LEDs inside the resin but I don’t think that is prohibitive. If I pass the wires straight through I can put heat shrink tubing around them to protect and it should be fine. I may need to switch from non-insulated wires in the resin (so they don’t show) to insulated wires once it is out of the resin. That means more soldering, but that is ok. I can manage that.

01.28.17 Resin Samples

I got a practice mold. It is pink, which is annoying since it interferes with my ability to see colors when I pour or paint, but it is soft silicone so it is easier to use.

I poured clear resin in the bottom of six sections. Sadly, I realized I am almost out of resin after I did it. I hope I can finish the practice pieces with a different resin without screwing it up too much.

I also made some Sculpey clay shapes to use in the resin. I don’t intend for them to be precise. I just need them to give some lines to the color areas and I want to drill them to hold the fiber optics.


01.29.17 Resin Samples

I painted one sample and then painted and wet-painted the second layer in another sample. One is a star with a planet in front. The planet is made of Sculpey clay because I want it to block the light and appear as a solid black disk to illustrate the way scientists locate exoplanets. The clay idea is working, but I am not at all keen on the way the painted layers work. I just can’t see what I am doing in the pink! I feel like I need to pour the planet shape into half spheres and then put the completed sphere in the resin.


01.30.17 Wood Pieces

Susan threw away some pieces of one pf her print panels. It is thin-ish MDF. I cut out some pieces from it. I am going to give it a try as a way to manage fiber optics. I wish I had thought to cut each piece into two identical pieces but I didn’t.

I got my new fibers in this week so I am ready to give this another try.


01.31.17 Fibers Again

I stuck all those damn fibers into pieces of cardboard. I used long fibers. The new ones are thicker too so that was easier. Then I set my design in the resin. It looks stupid. The fibers moved around in the resin so that the design lost its precision. It isn’t even work hooking it up to real LEDs. I held one up to it. It works. You can see the lights. It is just too ugly to bother. I am going to have to try pouring it in order instead of backwards. That way I can glue the fibers in place. I will still have to find a way to make them stand up straight when I pour, but maybe it will be easier if I can see what I am doing better. Either way, I think long fibers are key. I feel like I am going to end up with a lot of waste.


02.03.17 Mold/Frame

I cut some wood to use for frames today. I am going to try installing the fibers through holes and gluing them down. Then I will pour the resin from the bottom up instead of reverse pouring. I wish I had a piece of screen to support the fibers when I pour, but I don’t and I really really don’t feel like going out to get any.


02.04.17 Failure to Launch and Excessive Planning + Grant Writing

I meant to pour a practice layer in the new frames but I cut them so big that I feel like if It goes wrong Ill end up wasting it so I got very caught up in a design that became too complex for just practice. I need to make some smaller practice frames. I want to move on but I am still not fully ready to do that. I need a few more practice sessions. I need to see some things come out right.

I also worked on Grant writing. I need a lot of stuff for this project, but I am terribly worried that I am not going to get enough work done. Resin is so tricky. You have to work very slowly and carefully so you don’t fuck it up. But you also have to wait 24 hours between each layer so it’s not like I can afford to wait too long. UG.

Ideas: I think I need some long cylinder molds. I found some on EBay that are 4 centimeters, but it wouldn’t be bad to have some that are several inches long. I could use them to embed shapes in my resin paintings.


02.05.17 Grant

I wrote the abstract. I also worked on the budget but I am not sure the budget is going to suit the rules. I sent E mails to ask for help.


02.06.17 Grant Budget

I am doing my best to apply for a GSG grant but I find myself becoming very upset and angry with the graduate school. They are using money that all of us pay in fees to give these grants but they have created a format that is exclusionary to some disciplines. That is absolutely unfair and should not be allowed! I can accept that the grants are based on following instructions, but they should have guidelines that apply to all disciplines.
I am supposed to include an itemized budget with three sources for each item BUT it cannot exceed 1 page. Then I have 2 pages to write explanations. Any project that requires a large number of materials cannot meet these requirements. You cannot fit more than 5 or 6 items on a page if you have to list three sources. This forces you to accept a point deduction where none is deserved. If you modify the list and do it by category, you still only have room for 5 to 6 items and again, you run the risk of point deduction. If you list fewer items than you actually need, then you can get in trouble for misuse of funds if you do get the grant.
I am feeling pretty negative about it. Why should I have to pay for something I can’t access?

I tried asking the Graduate school for help but the person in charge says that she cannot do more than advice. I feel that they should be required to give answers and be accountable for them. I have forwarded our conversation. I have not replied to her because I am fairly annoyed and I can’t think of anything else to say that would be helpful. I don’t need her advice. I need a definitive answer to my questions.

I can’t do this project without a grant. I am sinking so much money into electronics that I don’t want to sink it into this too. I may have to just do something else and save it for later.


02.07.17 Wrote the Grant, Draft 1

Wrote the grant. Agonized over the budget. Rewrote the grant.


02.08.17 More Grant stuff

I went to Susan’s Grant workshop. I was the only one there last Fall. This time Alicia and Amy were there too. It was a bit too chaotic but it helped some. Then I went to GSG meeting. I delivered eligibility letters. I also talked to Anne (the Grant Officer) about the issue with the grants. At first, she was annoyed but then Laura (Tall, thin, blond woman?) came in and I think that helped too. I finally figured out how to articulate the heart of the issue.

The problem is that the instructions contradict. It says to list all supplies, even the ones you are not requesting funding for. This is undoubtable because it also says that you cannot purchase things not listed on the budget without approval from the Grant officer or you could be guilty of misuse of funds. It specifies that any changes must be minor. The instructions also says “give three sources for each item.” This is so that you can show that you are using economical options. That makes sense too. The problem comes in when it says the itemized budget can only be one page. That is a problem. A project that requires lots of materials can’t meet all those requirements. You are forced to pick a rule to break.

Yes, you might still get a grant if you break the rules but Anne pointed out an important fact. There are limited funds and lots of grants. The difference between a grant and no grant or full and half funding could be as low as 1 point on the scoring rubric. It is not fair if one grant receives a point deduction, not because the writer didn’t know how to follow instructions but because the instructions could not be honestly followed.

It is possible that the grant reader will opt not to deduct points, but that should not be up to the grant reader. It should be ensured in the instructions and scoring rubric.

I understand that grants are judged primarily on following directions. This is so that diverse disciplines can be judged by non-experts. It also allows students to practice the formatting of grants in a way that mirrors the real world. Most importantly, the system equalizes access to the grants for all disciplines.

If these things are true, then theoretically, any eligible student should be able to write a perfect grant for any reasonable, degree-related project.

The issues with itemization do not make it possible to write a perfect grant if the project requires a large number of materials. It would probably also cause problems on any sufficiently large project that might be seeking funding from multiple sources.

This may seem like a nit-picky issue. After all, in the “real world” grants are often biased, unfair and inconsistent. However, this is not the “real world.” These grants are funded by student fees. We have a right to equal access to them. More importantly than the fees, many graduate students desperately need the funding to complete large projects. Sometimes there are not any other sources available. Learning to follow instructions and write professional grants is extremely important, but not at the expense of student progress in their fields.


02.09.17 Finalizing Grant

PDF of my Spring 217 GSG Grant: 2017spring_dr_89628

I rewrote the budget. It’s awesome. It is not perfect since I did not list every single item, but it follows the rules in all other regards. Hopefully I won’t get more than a point deduction. Owen read it and made some excellent comments. He suggested that I add more specificity to the description. He also said to use more “declarative” words. I say that to students all the time. Don’t say “I think!” He was right. I don’t know why I didn’t see that myself. He also gave me some specific vocabulary to use. I spent many many hours revising the abstract. Even if I don’t get the grant, I think the thinking and writing process was very valuable.


Research (because I wanted to make sure I was using a word correctly)

Neuronal plasticity (e.g., neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, cortical re-organization) refers to neuron-level changes that can be stimulated by experience. Cognitive plasticity (e.g., increased dependence on executive function) refers to adaptive changes in patterns of cognition related to brain activity. We hypothesize that successful cognitive aging requires interactions between these two forms of plasticity. Mechanisms of neural plasticity underpin cognitive plasticity and in turn, neural plasticity is stimulated by cognitive plasticity.


02.10.17 Late Evening Plans

I couldn’t get sleepy so I decided to make it worse by working again. I worked out the next test pour for the project.

One of the biggest challenges is that every test takes days. Sometimes I can do more than one test at a time, but sometimes that feels wasteful. Resin is too expensive to waste.

The next biggest challenge is the fiber optics issue. It’s funny, when I initially came up with the idea I thought simply figuring out the electronics would be the hard part. Nope. That’s attainable. Making fiber optics be still is hard! I have another small test run to do tomorrow. This time I am going to pour from the bottom up instead of the top down, which means all the lighting has to go in first.


02.11.17 Off-task but Pro Origin

I assigned myself my Processing work for Independent Study today, but I want to get a test pour started as well. I will have to wait 24 hours between pours so it’s hard to wait. When I start the real project, I am going to have to come up with a better, more scheduled system.


02.18.17 Plan

I think I finally have it figured out. I drew up a plan to make the display using sheets of acrylic instead of resin but that should also allow me to put the whole thing in resin. I just need to be able to make a vector file to print. I’ll ask Virginia.


02.19.17 Virginia’s Vector Advice (Yea Virginia!)

“look up how to use blending mode. you can create one circle with the series of tiny holes, group the whole thing, duplicate it and enlarge to the largest size you want the last one to be and place where you want it to be on the plane. Now select both circles, then select blend tool, then click on the edge of one circle with the blending tool and then click on the edge of the other circle. then double click on the blending tool in the tool box and you will get a pop up window. select steps, put a number in, and you will see your circles increasing in size from the original to the duplicate. you can change the steps until you see what you like.”

04.03.17 Terminated

I did not get the GSG Grant. I just can’t afford to do this without it. I am going to have to terminate the project for now. Maybe I can do it next year. I can keep working out techniques in the meantime.