Tag Archives: fringe

New Printable RFID

According to Wired, a new nanotube-based ink allows RFID tags to be printed directly onto packaging materials. The end result would be that no bar-code scanning, just wheel a cart of gorceries through the exit, and you’re good. Plus, if your credit card is RFID enabled, then you could, in principle, have your account debited at the same time! No human interaction required at all. Pretty sweet. I can’t wait to see what the Fringe has to say about this.


"Miracle" water for cleaning is probably not all that miraculous

Alert Reader Jason strikes again! About a week ago, the L.A. Times covered the following story.

Simple elixir called a ‘miracle liquid’

It turns out to be less miraculous than it might seem. What you have here is the electrochemical generation of dilute bleach and dilute hydrochloric acid. This is a process that has been done industrially for a century, and now you can do it at home. Or you could just buy a bottle of bleach and a bottle of vinegar.


Fringey science

This article at Esquire paints a fascinating picture of Dr. Mark Roth. The way this article tells the story, Dr. Roth went into the Fringe and came back with an interesting research subject. He figured out how to put mice into a state of near suspended animation.

Another scientist, Dr. Luca Turin gave a TED talk about the Science of Scent. I found it fascinating for several reasons, not the least of which is it iconoclasm. The accepted view on receptor-ligand interactions (that happen when you smell something) is based on the shape of the molecule. Dr. Turin suggests something quite different. He suggests that the interaction is (in a sense) spectroscopic/vibrational. And it sounds vaguely like some ideas from homeopathy which are pretty fringey.

That leads to the my real topic for today: what is to be done with an idea that is interesting, worth investigating, but that sounds like quackery? The danger of the fringe is that the majority is crap. It’s the kind of thing that will capture a scientist’s imagination and take them on a never-ending wild goose chase. That’s called pathological science. And it’s worth avoiding. The people who chase it get a bad reputation.

These two gentlemen, Dr. Roth and Dr. Turin risked madness and explored potentially career-ending hypotheses and came out on the far side successful. As Morgan Freeman put it, they crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.


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?