The Known Unknowns


The project explores the idea of true randomness and pseudorandomness at the inter­sec­tion between science and design.

Commissioned by

Design Interactions Show

Scope of Work

  • Speculative Design
  • Diegetic Prototyping

Website Credits

This project is about stim­u­lating a debate about the unwritten law telling us to quantify is to verify and enabling a discus­sion at the inter­sec­tion between science and design:

Three devices were developed which generate random numbers based on cosmic rays, radio­active radi­ation and wind: The image above show the Random Event Harvester which is based on a Geiger counter that notices radio­active particles, produ­cing a bitstream that is after­wards converted into numbers. The device’s char­ac­ter­istic of being port­able allows collecting random numbers in the envir­on­ment and store them with asso­ci­ated geograph­ical information.

The Random Anemometer is based on wind. Every cone has a small wing placed in the middle. Every time the wing hits either the left or the right wall inside the cone, a value of either 0 or 1 is gener­ated. In contrast to the other devices, this device it is not based on radio­active radiation.

The Random Event Harvester is a portable device to collect contingency on sight
The anemometer collects true random numbers through the movement of the flaps
The cloud chamber is meant to be used in the domestic space. True random digits generated from cosmic rays can be used as i.e. password, pin or for the lottery.


Studio NAND
Random numbers are generated through the detection of cosmic rays. The system goes back to the Wilson cloud chamber (~1920) which is a particle detector used for detecting ionised radiation. The detail shot shows how the system is visualising the trails of alpha particles from a radioactive needle source (pb210/lead)

Credits & References

Studio NAND

Photographer Matthias Steffen; Actor Daniel Godward; Thanks to Neil Usher, Tom Lynch, Stefan Schwabe, Anthony Dunne & James Auger

Exhibited at Institute for Unstable Media Rotterdam