The Invisible Electronic Fields That Surround Your MacBook

You might view your laptop as a nice, neatly contained unit — but there’s more bursting out of it than meets the eye. In fact, all of its electrical components create complex magnetic and electric fields that spread far and wide, and this video shows you their reach.

A project by Luke Sturgeon and Shamik Ray from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, this video tries to visualise the electromagnetic fields emitted by electronic devices using light painting. The pair explain:

We chose to make Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) that surround us visible. EMFs are particularly strong around devices with electrical and magnetic parts. Using long exposure photography and stop-frame animation we tried to ‘light-paint’ the EMF around objects like our laptops and an old tape-deck. Through a series of experiments in photographic and lighting techniques followed by hacking up an Android phone to act as an EMF indicator and then coding our own app in Processing we were able to visualise how these fields change over objects.

The phone was used as a kind of light brush, which reacted to the changing strength of the EMF, and long exposures allowed them to capture the whole field. Amusingly, the EMF from the laptop’s hard drive was strong enough to stall the phone’s magnetic sensor — so there’s still room for improvement — but the result is pretty cool nonetheless. [Vimeo via WIRED via Creators Project]