Monday, May 19, 2008
In a recent post, Mr. Dork opined on the joys of perusing magazine racks. I'd normally supply a link, but I'm lazy and Mr. Dork has too many posts to sort through in order to find something so specific - although he's certainly not on the same level of blogpost-proliferation as a certain Mr. Goodness. The latter is a subject on which Mr. Dork has also seen fit to make comment and I'm sure that if anyone Out There is interested they could just point-and-click their way through his blog on that count, too.
So, magazines! They're fun to find and the next best thing to finding them is having them find you. And so it is that 4 times a year my cherished Make magazine finds me - or, rather, my mailbox. I've probably blogged this subject, too, so you have free rein here to look it up.
Anyways, a few issues back Make included plans to construct a device called The Brain Machine. This gizmo is based on the premise that targeted frequencies of light pulses and sound can produce altered states of consciousness. The science (or lack of it) contends that the brain's alpha, beta, delta, and theta wave-states are consistent with varying levels of relaxation and concentration. While an EEG can certainly measure these brain responses, the Brainwave movement contends that these states can be induced through light and sound.
So it was that JediBoy asked if we could take on this project. It only sucked up a few hours of our time to build and probably set us back a mere $35 in parts. Jediboy got to learn a bit about soldering little pieces of wire to a circuit board and manipulating software on a chip. The results (seen above) have a certain geekiness that just screams for some background Theramin music.
The software that runs our Brain Machine is more-or-less a script that generates blink rates for the LEDs in the eye lenses and binaural sound frequencies through the headphones. All this blinking and humming is generated at different rates for varying durations to take a Guinea Pig through different stages of relaxation and concentration. Out-of-the-box, the software runs through a 14-minute cycle of brain-scrambling, but this is all customizable to whatever effect you might want.
The real questions on your minds are, "Did you make contact with a higher consciousness? Was L. Ron Hubbard right all along?". Alas, the effect of the Brain Machine is quite unexpected and not entirely clear altered-consciousness-wise. Something does happen, but I'm not sure what it means.
Consider the effect on your vision when you close your eyes and then rub them vigorously with the balls of your hands. For many people, this produces vivid black-and-white geometric patterns. Imagine this in Technicolor with 3D effects and a strong sensation of motion (the good kind, not the bed-spin kind). The Brain Machine is kind of like that. And when the script changes from one brain wave state to another, your sensory experience changes immediately, with new colours, new motion, and new patterns.
It's a fun experience, and we may experiment some more with the software and see what other effects we can produce. But I can't say that the experience leaves me with even the most fleeting ability to operate on a Vulcan's brain. But I'll keep trying. I assume I'll recognize Xenu when I see him.