The Kuramoto Model (1,000 Fireflies)

The Kuramoto Model (1000 Fireflies) by David Rueter is a “synch mob” on bikes for Northern Spark.

During Northern Spark, up to 1.000 bicyclists will use customized, interactive blinking LED devices outfitted with microcontrollers and radio units that allow them to mutually and observably synchronize with others, as do certain species of firefly.

Lights are available online via Kickstarter until March 31.

These devices, in isolation, look similar to conventional LED cycling safety lights, but in groups exhibit an immediately noticeable phenomenon. To maximize the visual impact for all festival attendees, organizers will encourage participating cyclists to gather together in a large group to tour the various festival sites, including a “blessing of the bikes” at the Basilica of Saint Mary and a procession down Hennepin Ave.to start out the night.

This project owes much to the research of Yoshiki Kuramoto, who in 1975 first articulated a mathematical model that describes why, how and when large systems of similar oscillators (things that cycle automatically and repeatedly) can mutually synchronize, without any single coordinating force or leader. With Kuramoto’s legacy (as well as the earlier work of Norbert Wiener and Art Winfree) as a starting point, this project aims to activate and transform the social networks and urban dynamics associated with cycling, by fusing this existing system with one biased towards synchronization. Grafting this artificial system of synchronized blinking lights onto a real-world urban transportation system does two things: first, it calls attention to the individual act of cycling as a component of a larger dynamic system with its own unique patterns and qualities, and second, it momentarily transforms that system through a subtle but pointed intervention in urban social space.

The project will be documented and published on a project blog, and the software and hardware implementation details will be published under an open-source license, allowing others to reproduce the designs or use them as starting points for new projects. Through an open process and significant outreach, organizers receive input and participation from members of the Minneapolis/St. Paul cycling community.

Modified LED bike lights.

Get your Kuramoto Model bike light on Kickstarter today.



2 Comments

Author
Posted

I was wondering if I could kickstart more cash and get more lights. I couldn’t figure out how to do that the first time around. Will the lights synchronize if I get one for every family member? Looking forward to it!



Author
Posted

The Northern Spark bridge event was fun but too successful, given the number of pedestrians and bikes with non-Kuramoto model lights, to be an adequate demonstration of the power of the concept. Could another night ride be organized to focus more exclusively on this project?



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