I hope it’s isn’t too controversial for me to say that 2020 is the worst year in recent memory, especially in the United States. Forest fires fueled by climate change have ravaged many parts of the country, we have a very troublesome election just around the corner, and our poor response to the coronavirus pandemic has killed hundreds of thousands and left millions more in dire economic straits. The only way many of us have been able to cope with this abysmal year is by working on quarantine projects. Bornach, taking inspiration from the pandemic itself, used the time to build a freeform sculpture called Astable Exhalation.
Astable Exhalation is a freeform sculpture that resembles a sort of internal silhouette of the human body. At the bottom there is a pair of lungs. Above those is a head. Next to the head there is an icky miasmic cloud spewing from the mouth. The sculpture alternates between illuminating the lungs with blue LEDs and the cloud, presumably laden with coronavirus, with green LEDs. That cycle simply continues endlessly. Bornach began this project in August, when he was challenged to come up with a circuit to illuminate a lightsaber prop using only the kinds of basic, discrete components that virtually all makers have sitting in a box somewhere.
The circuit used to light the LEDs, called an astable multivibrator, is where the sculpture’s name comes from. Other than the LEDs themselves, the only components needed to create a basic astable multivibrator circuit are resistors, capacitors, and transistors. This circuit has the “astable” moniker because it doesn’t require any kind of external trigger; it oscillates thanks to the two capacitors, which act as automatic triggers for the transistors. The relationship between the capacitors, resistors, transistors, and circuit voltage determine the timing. Bornach’s astable multivibrator circuit is dispersed throughout the sculpture that was made from brass rods. One rod, measuring 1mm in diameter, acts as both the spine and the ground rail. Another 0.8mm rod forms the head and the positive power supply rail. The circuit runs on 5-6V, which can be provided by batteries or a standard USB charger. Astable Exhalation may be a bit on the morbid side, but it is the perfect reflection of 2020.