Invisible signals are all around us, and now we can finally see what we've been missing. Data visualization artist Nickolay Lamm created psychedelic images of the cellphone signals that live in the air, but are invisible to us.
At first glance, the visualizations look like tiny mountains illuminated with all the colors of a typical Times Square billboard. But thanks to Danilo Erricolo, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Chicago and Fran Harackiewicz, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Southern Illinois University Carbondale who consulted on the project, there's quite a bit of science behind the hilly terrain and color explosion.
The landscape is created on a grid of hexagons, with cellular base stations at every corner. Each user within the hexagons has been assigned a different frequency, and when frequencies combine, they create a single color. Different colors are created when channels combine from hexagon to hexagon. Lamm's illustrations show what you would see if you were to take a photo at a single instant over a city like Chicago (above) — rapid changes happening at once to produce an landscape of colors.
New York, featuring a blanket colors via rooftop transmitters.
This isn't the first time Lamm has created detailed visualizations of the invisible things we live around every day: he also visualized a world where you can see Wi-Fi signals. While it's amazing to see as a data visualization, you probably wouldn't want to see these colored lights all day, every day.
Washington The Herbert C. Hoover Building base station in DC.