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Gardens as Crypto-Water-Computers Redux
Water Computer

The above image appeared in an article published by Scientific American in 1964. It's actually a photograph, believe or not, of a block of plastic “chemically etched” with “fluid control devices,” which are basically an arrangement of channels. Streams of fluids are pumped through these micro-canals, and applying the principles of fluid dynamics, one could manipulate their meandering course through this network.

Water Computer

In one fluid-control technique described by author Stanley W. Angrist, a high-energy stream of fluid, called the power stream, is first injected into a fluid control device. If left to itself, the power stream clings to one wall of the channel in which it is flowing, and as a result exits through an outlet on that side. The stream can be diverted to a second outlet on the other side by injecting a stream from a side channel.

If you think of those two outlets as representing “on” and “off” (or “0” and “1”) and the side channels as flip-flop switches, then it's easy to see how a fluid control device “corresponds to a triode that turns a flow of electrons on or off. It is essentially like an element in a digital computer.” One can even design it “to act as a logic gate expressing the concept 'and' or 'or,'” thus, if you build and connect enough of them, you could have an “all-fluid digital computer” that can model the most complex algorithms. There are even certain set-ups that display “a property that amounts to memory, and it can be put to use for that purpose.”

To repeat: a property that amounts to memory!

Water Computer

No doubt I've oversimplified or misunderstood the concept and potential of these fluid control devices, so I suggest reading the article in full and the Wikipedia entry on fluidics. There's also an article archived on Modern Mechanix, one published in 1960 and claiming that these devices “could rival electronics within 10 years.” In fact, returning to the Scientific American article, Angrist spells out their “distinct advantages over electronic devices. They are simple in construction, have virtually no moving parts, can be powered by almost any source of energy to pump the fluid, are immune to damage by heat or ionizing radiation (which electronic equipment is not) and would be comparatively inexpensive if mass-produced.”

In any case, owing to a vague resemblance of the opening image to the serpentine lines of an irregular garden, such as the garden at Petit Trianon on the super-formalized grounds of Versailles — and to the enduring popularity of an earlier post in which I sketched out an alternate version of garden history — one can't help but propose reconfiguring Petit Trianon into a water computer.

It'd be a kind of experimental subfield of historic preservation, in which Le Rouge's plan for Marie Antoinette's pleasure ground is purposely misunderstood as the schematics for a fluidic motherboard.

Petit Trianon

You could also reconstruct the whole of Versailles, afterwards augmenting it with several Versailleses, and in the process gobbling up other gardens of the Ancien Régime that have since disappeared, though their plans still exist in the basements of national libraries, ready to be misread as circuitry.

That is, into miles of fluidic circuitry etched into the earth; modules bulging out artificial hills, outlook mounts and facsimiles of Mt. Parnassus; valved artificial lakes as input devices; water parterres as logic gates; grottos as maintenance access to the bowels of this great tectonic machine; with esoteric Freemason symbols as instructional manuals; and a decorative program of Diana Efesinas as display consoles.

Fontana di Diana Efesina

Moving from one Diana Efesina to another, which could be quite an epic perambulation, and taking notes of the hydro-matrix barcodes being printed by these water-emitting diodes, one will eventually gather all the data needed to model…what exactly?

How about the motions of planets and stars?

Salomon de Caus

Adjust the pumps on this fountain and the pumps on that fountain and a thousand other interconnected water features, and soon enough you will have calculated the day when Jupiter reaches its next perihelion or the earth-crashing orbit of a previously unknown asteroid. The garden will open up the universe and all its wonders to humanity, but will also announce the date of their Second Exile.


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