17. Whisky Again

Whisky again.  Jack Schulze again. He sat down with me a couple of years ago while I was very drunk (it was the WIRED UK magazine launch, and the whisky was unwisely free) and showed me some footage on his phone. He’d been in Norway with Timo Arnall (also now of BERG), all folded up (Jack is very tall and weighs about as much as a bottle of free whisky) in a darkened Oslo basement screwing around with RFID tags.

You’ve all seen RFIDs – Radio Frequency Identification tags, the square pieces of paper used as security devices. The big swirly bit is the antenna, the bit in the middle is the circuit. An interrogator floods a region with radio. When the tag hits the field, it soaks up the energy and uses it to squeeze out its own signal. And that’s how you get caught stealing a dirty book.

On the phone, he’s showing me something I haven’t seen before. A visualisation of the readable volume of the EM field the RFID tag produces when it’s hit by an interrogator. It seems bloody huge. Much bigger and more energetic than you’d imagine.  On the iPhone, I’m watching ghost mushrooms rise out of physical objects.

Suddenly I had a new understanding of that small wave of body-modification enthusiasts who implanted themselves with magnets, so that they could actually feel when they were passing through electromagnetic fields (like security gates).