Mind & Matter


Crossed Signals

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Photo: BBC World Service


As telecommunication technologies continue to intensify and proliferate, control over the burgeoning torrent of information becomes an increasingly sensitive issue. Not only is data security an ongoing concern, but also the potential physiological effects of increasing (albeit low) levels of electromagnetic radiation. As a result, architecture will play an increasing role in managing this data fog.

Scientists at the University of Tokyo have recently developed a paint that can block wi-fi signals. This coating uses aluminum-iron oxide particles whose resonance frequency is roughly the same as that of wi-fi, so it might be safely used to block transmission of wi-fi and other signals for security purposes. A similar technology may be found in the mobile phone-blocking paint by NaturalNano, which uses copper particles inserted into nanotubes. Although the manufacturer claims that emergency calls may be transmitted despite the presence of the coating, it is hard to imagine a completely foolproof solution.

What will we see next in the physical control of data streams? Active systems that may be turned on or off like excitable glass? “Tunable” surfaces that can be adjusted to filter particular bands of communication based on wavelength? What about technologies that could allow us to visualize the growing data fog that surrounds us?




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.