Artist creates solid block of Beijing smog

As Beijing experiences its first “Red Alert” smog emergency, an aptly-timed bit of quirky performance art is making the round on Chinese social media and the English-language press today. A artist from Shenzhen who calls himself “Brother Nut” spent 100 days walking around Beijing with an industrial vacuum cleaner. He then collected dust into a brick, and plans to let the brick disappear into the supply of ordinary bricks shipping out to construction projects around the city.

In the last few days, particulate levels in Beijing have reached 256 micrograms per cubic meter, more than ten times what is considered acceptable. Brother Nut says he collected about 100 grams over the 100 days, or about a gram a day. So, his vacuum cleaner had to have processed at least 4000 cubic meters per day. Not bad, considering EPA reference instruments process between 1468 and 2446 cubic meters in a day.

Several Wibo users complained that the vacuum used wouldn’t capture PM2.5, and that the brick wasn’t 100% pollution, to which Brother Nut responded that he’s not a scientist and isn’t doing research. So, building scientists — can you help a brother out by posting some photos of the gunk you’ve collected in your samplers?

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Russell Neches

A microbiology graduate student at UC Davis, working with Jonathan Eisen @phylogenomics . Studies evolution & ecology. Advocate of Open Hardware & Open Access.