Jan 262009

Well, it’s about time I actually post some pictures and videos on this topic.

So, again, here’s a link to Wikipedia’s article on Rubens’ Tubes. The long and the short of it is: Take a tube, put a speaker on one end, pipe propane into the other end, seal up the leaks, and then drill small, evenly spaced holes along the top of the tube. Turn on the gas, light it as it comes out of your little holes, and start playing stuff through the speaker.

Northwood managed to burn the speaker a little bit before I even got there. On the first day, we had 1/8″ holes every 1/2″; after some experimentation, we increased to 1/8″ holes every 1/4″. It was hard to balance the speaker’s power output against the pressure, so in a lot of cases you see parts of the fire going out, in some extreme cases, it puts the whole fire out. Trying to balance especially high speaker output against especially high pressure resulted in burst caulking at least once.

Anyway, here’s some pictures Wilmy took the first day, and then some pictures I took the next time we played with it.

We took a couple gigabytes of video. Right now, only six of the videos are available on YouTube, down below (that’s right, a first for this blog! YouTubularity!). These videos are mostly mathematical frequency progressions (not even musical progressions — I was defining frequencies based on wavelength rather than musical quality). We have a bunch where we actually used music, which are neat. Maybe I’ll get around to putting them up some other time.

Before you watch the videos, take a moment and congratulate SkaYoYo and Heeder on their second child, a son whom they have dubbed Ender! Hooray!

So, first, a frequency progression from the first day (1/2″ spacing), which Wilmbo filmed.

Second, two frequency progressions from the second day (1/4″ spacing), which I filmed using a tripod. For the second one, I tuned the frequencies to a range that worked well on the tube. Also, we turned out the lights.

Finally, three goofy videos of my little brother doing odd stuff.

Jan 242009

I can’t remember which book I was reading when I started thinking about this, but it has provided a fair amount of entertainment since then. Please keep in mind this is idle musing.

You could say that failing to believe your senses is a sign of insanity. But, we do it all the time. Well, at least I do, so maybe I’m insane. I will see something, not recognize it or see it as nonsense, and rationalize it into something…well, rational. I will hear something, not be able to make sense of it, and try to explain it logically. And I will wholeheartedly (and wholeheadedly) believe the rationalizations and logical explanations over the original sensory information.

Which brings up the other side of my thoughts: Couldn’t you also say that seeing and believing the impossible is a sign of insanity? But, if you see something impossible, you couldn’t possibly believe it, could you? That would be crazy! Which is a sticky position, isn’t it? Requiring the insanity of disbelieving your eyes in order to achieve the sanity of not having crazy visions?

Now it’s time for some examples, which is actually kind of hard. The action of re-evaluation is such an ingrained, automatic instinct that it takes some concentration to go backwards from my interpretation to the original raw sensory data.

So, yesterday at work, a wall jumped out at me (rationalized as “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going”). Far more logical, but definitely not what I saw. Don’t worry, the wall missed me.

I’ve seen things fly at me from dark corners (“shadows moving at the corner of my eye”). “I misinterpreted what I saw, I didn’t see something crazy…”

I’ve seen friends smile at me from crowds of strangers (“I must have imagined it” or “must have seen someone who looked like my friend”). “Imagination” is like the “magic” explanation — you can apply it to anything and not inquire any further, if you’re willing to accept it.

People have simply disappeared or appeared (“Obviously I didn’t hear them going or coming”). “I was missing information” is another good way to dismiss delusions.

This sort of stuff is kind of like dreams — they’re hard to remember if you don’t write it down right away or make a conscious effort. The wall thing was recent, or I wouldn’t remember it. The other ones are common, they probably happen several times a year. I know I used to recognize the action of re-evaluation more frequently when I was young, and still learning that I had to rationalize my senses in order to fit into society (this, I think, is part of the definition of our society). I’ll try to remember to more up here as I recognize them.

So, what about you? What have you seen, disbelieved, rationalized, and then believed the rationalization? Or, to put it away, what have you believed, even though it wasn’t what you actually saw?