Humans can only see a small patch of the electromagnetic spectrum – a mere 310nm range. Other animals can see into the ultraviolet and infrared, but none can see the wavelengths used for wireless networks. Imagine if we could. Luis Hernan has given us a vision of what that might be like.
Hernan, a PhD student at the Newcastle University, UK, maps wireless signals in a room using what he calls the Kirlian Device. Then he translates the signals into color. In a reversal of the actual energy of colors, the strongest signals are converted to red, the weakest to blue.
“I call the images ‘spectres’ because wireless networks remind me of ghosts,” Hernan said. “They are there but you can’t see them with the human eye.”
“The fact we are becoming increasingly reliant on something that we can’t see intrigues me,” Hernan added. “I wanted to find a way to show the wireless which is around us and also to show how it changes. It is an impossibly fragile and volatile infrastructure that holds our digital technologies together, and shapes the way in which we interact with the digital world. Something as seemingly inconsequential as walking around the house will interfere with and reshape their propagation and strength field. Close the wrong door, and the bedroom becomes a dead spot for wireless.”
Hernan was inspired by Seymon Davidovich Kirlian, who discovered a way to photograph electrical discharges. Kirlian, and many followers, became convinced that they had found evidence of paranormal phenomenon, equating the images produced with aura and seeing evidence of an energy field unique to living things.
A Kirlian Device App is available for Android phones (sorry iPhone users). “I would love other people to get involved and to create their own images using the app,” Hernan said. “I used it as part of an exhibition of my work, where we hung mobile phones from the ceiling and it showed how signal strength was varying as people moved around the room.”