The Strange fringe leads to something interesting

There’s a book by Orson Scott Card called “Folk of the Fringe.” It’s one of his lesser known works. I liked the symbolism. In the post-apocalyptic future, a group of people are terraforming the Utah desert into arable land. In the story, there’s a sequence of plants (engineered and natural) that need to grow on the land before it’s ready for crops. This sequence is planted as ever-expanding rings out from Salt Lake City (O.S.C is a Mormon).

Out at the newly planted regions, the fringe, people live far away from mainstream society. They ride in long circles, tending to the ever expanding ring of habitable territory. The symbolism is obvious. People who are on the edges of social acceptability are actually making more conceptual and social “space” available to the rest of us.
There’s a bit of a parallel in the sciences. Truth to tell, most “kooks” don’t have anything fundamentally interesting. But occasionally, a kook will strike gold out in the frontier and inspire a new rush of activity.

I don’t know how kooky the subject is of “Binaural auditory beats.” The fact that I first heard about it through the “alternative” sources suggests that it’s pretty kooky. But that’s irrelevant in the end. This study looks like it’s bringing the subject into the more respectable realm of controlled experiments:

Binaural auditory beats affect vigilance performance and mood.
Lane JD, Kasian SJ, Owens JE, Marsh GR.

Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA

When two tones of slightly different frequency are presented separately to the left and right ears the listener perceives a single tone that varies in amplitude at a frequency equal to the frequency difference between the two tones, a perceptual phenomenon known as the binaural auditory beat. Anecdotal reports suggest that binaural auditory beats within the electroencephalograph frequency range can entrain EEG activity and may affect states of consciousness, although few scientific studies have been published. This study compared the effects of binaural auditory beats in the EEG beta and EEG theta/delta frequency ranges on mood and on performance of a vigilance task to investigate their effects on subjective and objective measures of arousal…

In any case, I’m not surprised that there are external stimuli that can have odd effects on our brain and consciousness. In fact, I would be surprised if there were not. This is the fringe, ladies and gentlemen. This is where fertile ground will be made from desert. Binaural beat stimulation is a crude probe compared to that which we are capable of designing. The last question is: what will we plant in this new ground made whole by our efforts?