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Air Play - Smog Music Created With Beijing Air Quality Data

Artist uses algorithm to transform smog data into music


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 3:48 PM - 'Data DJ' Brian Foo has taken three years of smog readings in Beijing, China and set it to music.

The project, called Air Play, creates a musical sequence that's 'polluted' by smog.

"In other words, the song responds to the cumulative impact of multiple and consecutive daily readings rather than any individual daily reading," Foo says on his website.

Data was taken from the U.S Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor website's historical files.

"They provide hourly PM2.5 readings from the past 6 years as downloadable CSV's. For the purpose of my song, I used data from the last three years (2012-2014). I also averaged the hourly readings for each day into daily readings," Foo says.

Fine particulate matter -- or PM 2.5 -- are tiny air particles that contribute to poor air quality.

Researchers at the World Health Organization (WHO) say the more people are exposed to damaging air particulates, the higher their risk of developing lung and bladder cancers.

In some places -- like Beijing -- it is a persistent problem.


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Researchers at W.H.O. say the more people are exposed to damaging air particulates, the higher their risk of developing lung and bladder cancers.

Experts estimate that air pollution led to more than 220,000 lung cancer deaths globally in 2010 alone.

In some places -- like Beijing, China -- air pollution is a persistent problem.

The city's air quality index regularly exceeds 500 micrograms. On January 12, 2013, the particulate level skyrocketed to 755 micrograms -- setting a new record. 

The World Health Organization recommends a maximum daily level of 20 micrograms.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, levels higher than 300 micrograms per cubic meter are considered "hazardous."

Source: Brian Foo | Vimeo

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