Binaural Beats Experimentation

For the last few days, I’ve been running a few tests on myself as part of an effort to cure my chronic insomnia. For the last few months or so, the insomnia has gotten quite bad to the point that I’ve spent a day or two without any sleep at all and spent the day immediately afterward in what seemed like perpetual aggravation. I’m not sure of the efficacy of binaural beats as there are many conflicting sources all over the place so I started off doing some tests on myself to see if they work.

Preparation

I tried testing a couple of headphones first. My trusty JVC HA-RX300 which I’ve had for years and take everywhere and a new set, a Sennheiser HD280 Pro.

I have a tiny head (contrary to what I’ve been told repeatedly) and the HD280 felt a tad too big, but it produced the best range of sound so far. The RX300 seemed to struggle with the lower frequencies and I often had to increase the volume to the point distortions began to appear.

In my search for binaural tracks, I came across a vast swath of very shrill and harsh samples that I felt were the wrong fit for me. Plus some of them gave me a pretty severe headache after a couple of minutes of listening. Some even gave me a nauseous feeling and that’s definitely a sleep killer. I figured I’d write myself (and anyone else listening) a little disclaimer before going about this.

When listening, please ensure the volume starts low as high levels may cause permanent damage to your hearing. Use a pair of good quality headphones (circumaural, noise-cancelling preferred) which can reproduce frequency responses between at least 25Hz – 10,000Hz and that are light and fit comfortably.

Do not engage in intensive exercises immediately following a listening session.

If any dizziness, light-headed sensation or nauseous feeling were to occur, stop listening immediately, take a sip of cool water and lay down.

This track is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat any illness or physiological or psychological condition.

Now I just needed to create those tracks.

Binaural selection

Rather than creating one track and hoping for the best, I tried creating a selection starting with the lowest frequency I’m comfortable with. According to Wikipedia, the human hearing range starts at 20Hz so I decided to create a base frequency binaural track at 30Hz (to accommodate us mere mortals before catering to the superhuman).

The 30Hz track was OK at first, but that too became uncomfortable at the 5 minute mark. I think maybe the volume was a bit too high for me at the time, but it soon felt like someone was squeezing my head. I then went on to 50Hz, 70Hz, 90Hz and finally 110Hz. The 110Hz turned out to be more comfortable than the rest, but your experience may differ. Considering I haven’t figured out the correct volume yet and the HD280 hasn’t been “broken in” (audiophiles and detractors, please hold your flaming) I’ll need to experiment more.

I wanted to create a pure tonal track of at least 2 hours to start off. I felt 2 hours was the upper limit in duration to preserve my hearing and sanity. Your experience may vary considerably depending on the volume, the headset, the ambiance of your listening room, the amount of fluids you’ve had etc… Try to start slowly if you intend to follow along in these experiments with me.

I intend to try out non traditional approaches to this whole binaural thing and may go with alternating (left to right sweep) white noise to approach the mythical 1/2Hz Goldilocks Zone of “sensory resonance” if that has any benefit at all. Who knows, this kind of experimentation may become a new hobby. I’ll keep adding to this playlist as the experimentation goes on.

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What Does a Neural Network Actually Do?

Some Thoughts on a Mysterious Universe

There has been a lot of renewed interest lately in neural networks (NNs) due to their popularity as a model for deep learning architectures (there are non-NN based deep learning approaches based on sum-products networks and support vector machines with deep kernels, among others). Perhaps due to their loose analogy with biological brains, the behavior of neural networks has acquired an almost mystical status. This is compounded by the fact that theoretical analysis of multilayer perceptrons (one of the most common architectures) remains very limited, although the situation is gradually improving. To gain an intuitive understanding of what a learning algorithm does, I usually like to think about its representational power, as this provides insight into what can, if not necessarily what does, happen inside the algorithm to solve a given problem. I will do this here for the case of multilayer perceptrons. By the end…

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A video game style electromagnetic gun (from 1934)

So you think your video game has a railgun (or maybe a coilgun) from Doom, Quake, Mass Effect or what have you, that will defeat any armor and is incomprehensibly cool. Alas, it’s made of pixels.

Well, Virgil Rigsby from San Augustine Texas patented in 1934 what he called an “electric gun” – an apt description.

Via modernmechanix.com

Via modernmechanix.com

Mr. Rigsby next to a mockup of his "electric machine gun" (Via davidszondy.com). How badass looking is that?

Mr. Rigsby next to a mockup of his “electric gun” (via davidszondy.com).
How badass looking is that? The pith helmet he’s wearing makes it even better.

Mounted on the deck of a ship or on the back of a truck (if it had a nuclear reactor supplying power), this would have been formidable weapon.

Mounted on the deck of a ship or on the back of a truck (if it had a nuclear reactor supplying power), this would have been formidable weapon.

Bolts. I love bolts.

The premise behind this is that it’s essentially a coilgun with relatively fast reload time (even in those days, EM guns took a while to “recharge”) and rather than relying on complex triggering circuitry which would have been impractical in a time before the silicon chip, he went with a triggering wheel.

Coilguns frequently are confused with Railguns, however the principles of operation are very different. Although they both work on electromagnetism and require a vast amount of power, in a railgun, there are no coils per-se. The projectile/armature and the two rails on either side create one giant electromagnet. Whereas in a coilgun, each coil is an electromagnet momentarily energized sequentially as the projectile gets near each one.

This requires coilguns to be more complex, with multiple stages of acceleration that require intricate triggering mechanisms and careful timing. Therefore, coilguns are more awesome.

This schematic shows how each coil is arranged to be energized in sequence as the arm in the triggering wheel rotates. Note how each coil becomes smaller in width.

This schematic shows how each coil is arranged to be energized in sequence as the arm in the triggering wheel rotates. Note how each coil becomes smaller in width.

As the projectile gets near the next coil in sequence, it is energized. As the projectile enters the coil, it is de-energized and the next coil is triggered, pulling it through the barrel in this fashion until it exits the gun at tremendous velocity. Because the time the projectile spends in each coil is shorter and shorter as it accelerates, Mr. Rigsby wisely chose to reduce the width of each subsequent coil in the barrel.

Detail of the triggering wheel shows how the surface area of each contact plate in sequence becomes smaller as the amount of time the projectile spends in each coil becomes shorter. This is low tech timing in the days before advanced triggering circuitry.

Detail of the triggering wheel shows how the surface area of each contact plate in sequence becomes smaller as the amount of time the projectile spends in each coil becomes shorter. This is low-tech timing in the days before advanced triggering circuitry.

These days, coilguns employ a bank of High Voltage capacitors powering each coil. Modern circuits may also employ a second coil next to the acceleration coil, essentially to function as a simple metal-detector, to trigger the next acceleration coil in the sequence. Some advanced designs may use hall-effect sensors or an optical trigger that fires when the projectile breaks a laser/IR beam between the source and sensor. The optical triggers require slots to be cut into the barrel or often use barrels made of transparent borosilicate glass which is resistant to high temperatures and stress, while still being reasonably permeable to an electromagnetic field.

The biggest downside to this design (besides looking too awesome in front of the enemy, thereby ending the fight before it begins) was that it would have required a monumental amount of electricity to fire each round. These projectiles aren’t paper weights so they required a corresponding level of power at very high amps for each coil multiplied by each time fired. Due to inefficiencies of conversion from electromagnetic energy to kinetic energy, there will also be a lot of heat produced in the coils and triggering mechanisms.

That said… I’m totally building one of these when I have time.

DIY Insomnia Cure Ready to Assemble

This will either rid me of the insomnia of the past 15 years, or I’ll have fewer eyebrows… or heads. Either way, we’re ready to find out.

That's a soldering iron, two spools of copper wire, a ring coil (22awg) a low frequency coil of thick copper, two longer coils (medium and high frequency), a multimeter and two neodymium magnets

That’s a soldering iron, two spools of copper wire, a ring coil (22awg), a low frequency coil of thick copper, two longer coils (medium and high frequency), a multimeter and two neodymium magnets

I had the most amusement out of the two magnets. I think they’re rated around 1.5 or 1.7 tesla, but I can’t remember. Regardless, they are amusing to play with.

That's about half an inch of paper

That’s about half an inch of paper

Don't have a lot of fat, but I probably shouldn't be doing this

Don’t have a lot of fat, but I probably shouldn’t be doing this. And I just noticed, you can see my nose and eyes reflected on my ring!

By this time tomorrow, I’ll be cured! Or, someone will have to dial 911.

*For those of you still reading, this was a joke. One of my hobbies is electronics and the coils were from tesla coils and a DIY metal detector.

Martian Sunrise

I just realized Neil deGrasse Tyson is several orders of magnatude more cool than I possibly imagined. Here, Dr. Tyson creates a new mixed drink at The Bell House bar celebrating the exploration of Mars during the StarTalk Live event last month.

Ingredients:

  • Rum
  • Cranberry juice
  • Orange juice
  • A lemon slice

This proves to me again that Tyson Hour is possibly one of the most uplifting lifestyle changes I’ve made as of late.