How to Use Fool’s Gold – pyrite radio testing


How to Use Fool’s Gold is the title of the exhibition and also the name of a work that I’m making on-site in the gallery, with the help of Birmingham crystal radio enthusiast and ham radio expert, Geoffrey Roberts.

Otherwise known as pyrite, ‘fool’s gold’ is a crystalline mineral with a lustrous metallic appearance, sometimes mistaken for gold while prospecting. For me it evokes ideas of desire and naiveté in relation to the material resources that define wealth, as well as the less rational factors that underpin large-scale social and economic crises. How to Use Fool’s Gold involves using a piece of pyrite as a detector in a very basic radio set. This enables the reception of an audible radio signal from the air without any electrical input at all. The work is a pragmatic and a poetic attempt to fashion something out of almost nothing, to repurpose materials thought to be without value. This attitude to the art object, which has its own uncertain value or surprising potential, is also suggested by other works in the exhibition.

The photos above show tests in the gallery for the earth & the aerial on January 6th and 23rd. In principle, it works!

Geoff will also work with us on our next workshop, next Saturday February 11th, where he will discuss his long and varied experience of pirate radio and ham radio broadcasting, and set up a temporary broadcast in the gallery, using the earth and aerial installed for the pyrite radio.

As regards Scarcity radio… I am familiar with all those freqencies it is very crowded but as you say there are gaps. The spectrum is in the UHF microwave band. It is mostly where services like mobile phones Aircraft and long range radar are located these days thats why it is a bit crouded up there also microwave ovens are on 2.4 ghz.  Deep space telescopes are centered around 1.2 ghz and that is the resonant frequency of hydrogen. If we ever get a message from ET it is likely he will use that frequency , SETI (search for extra terrestrial intelligence are listening around the Hydrogen frequency ,the Two Ham bands up there are sparcely populated as most hams use the short waves. Communication in the .8 ghz to 2.1 ghz is mostly line of sight point to point communication very important for aircraft safety comms. There are large gaps in the spectrum that should be used I would agree . Recently equipment has been made which will search for a free space when it becomes available to use . Then it will move to another frquency when things get busy. Its the latest technology spectrum gap priority seeking equipment. It will revolutionise the way we use radio but has to be authorised by the regulatory organisations. British Telecom is evolving such equipment.
As regards Numbers radio transmitters. This has been a subject of great interest to radio hams. Many used the number sequencies to learn morse code I did use these stations also to learn morse code. There was a famous station called the ‘Linconshire Poacher’ which was directionally found by radio hams to be transmitting from an RAF base in Cyprus. These stations are Clandestine MI6 Secret Service and Military encripted communications and have been used since WW2. They are still in use on shortwave but are largely being replaed by internet and satelite encripted signals.





About Sarah Browne

Sarah Browne‘s research-based art practice explores our understanding of ‘the economy’, particularly its moral, irrational and ritualistic workings, as the dominant metaphor for contemporary social and political relations. She is interested in forms of non-market exchange and communication such as gift economies, subsistence, subsidies and poaching, and the creation or documentation of intentional economies and temporary ‘communities’.
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