Monday, 12 October 2015

Instituting a Régime of Strict Discipline Through Harnessing the Psychoacoustic Effects of Infrasound to Facilitate Behavioural Modification

Hi folks!  It’s been a while since I actually wrote anything as such specifically for this blog.  This is partly because for such a long time I have been tied up with the Roger Benson art project (of which the less said probably the better - along with Angela Fox) and partly, and more recently, because I have now become involved in a VERY intensive gym instructor / personal trainer course two days per week, and one of those days is one of the three days usually open to me when I can actually get any writing done.  The other reason is that nowadays, whenever I DO get the time to write I am trying to concentrated on finishing off the book I started last year (summer 2014) – it is the least I can do for those who have helped by supporting me financially through donations and those of you who have sent words of encouragement (equally valuable in their way). 

My reason for dragging myself away from the grindstone today is two fold. Firstly I have been away from home over the weekend and got home late today, limiting the time available to really get my teeth into the book anyway, and secondly I have had a very interesting and though-provoking comment posted to my last offering (Saturday) which needed replying to and which required a more detailed response than I could have managed over the weekend using my phone to access the internet as I might ordinarily have done.  So anyway, I set out on the reply and slowly began to realise two things:  1) It was going to require more than the word limit for comments would allow in one bite and  2) the subject is thought-provoking enough that I’d quite like more folk see it, think about it and perhaps give their take on it.  

The comment was posted by Frise (Hi, Frise! Many thanks for the link – and the idea!)  and I think it best to reproduce it here in its entirety - along with the link he kindly provided - followed by my reply.  So here goes….

Posted by Frise:

“I found this link about the effects of infrasound, how they cause uneasiness, anxiety, make you feel sick. I've suspected that for a number of years now. I was on a cruise with my wife and we went to see a movie on the ship. The cinema house was just over the engine room and my wife felt sick 30 minutes into the movie. The engine most likely emitted infrasound that we could only sense as vibrations. Imagine an institutional setting where the patient is subjected to this in order to break their self confidence, create anxiety... so many possibilities. Enjoy!

My reply:

“Yep, I am aware of the infrasound phenomenon and its ability to induce feelings of unease, extreme sorrow, disorientation and fear as well as symptoms of actual physical illness such as vomiting and even induce pain at certain frequencies if the intensity is high enough.  But I have not (until now, that is - but that may WELL change) thought of infrasound and its effects on the human psyche in the context of the type of thing I write and the situations I describe, although I have used in my writings high-pitched sounds right on the edge of perception to cause irritation and disrupt sleep patterns and described the masking effects of white noise. 

Indeed there has been research into this field using what amount to giant organ pipes to generate infrasound as the basis of a non-lethal battlefield weapon system and also in the whelm of social control to disperse demonstrating and / or rioting crowds / mobs. The phenomenon has been invoked to explain so-called 'sick building' syndrome, wherein people working within a certain office - or sometimes an entire building - repeatedly report sick suffering from various unexplained and often quite vague symptoms and maladies, feeling 'heady' and so on. 

It is interesting that one of the instances reported here seems to have been isolated to a resonating air conditioning duct system as this has also often been mooted as the root cause of the aforementioned 'sick building' syndrome and of course is directly analogous to the military's experimentation with organ pipe / trumpet style infrasound generation technology. 

And therein lies the problem – the large dimensions of any device designed specifically to produce the requisite low frequencies in some controlled and tailored way.  In the above by ‘tailored’ I meant generating the specific frequency or band of frequencies required to produce the desired effect.  I.e. you may well want to induce disorientation and a feeling of unease, subtle effects, but maintained over long periods of time, rather than out and out symptoms of illness such as vomiting or voiding of the bowels.  But having said that, used short term, the latter effects could be a wonderful behaviour modifying tool if controllable on a fine enough scale. 

Imagine if you will our young subject stood stock upright, back ramrod straight and hands on her head in her mental hospital pyjamas, skimpy hospital examination gown or institution uniform in front of matron’s desk and being berated verbally over some suitably petty misdemeanour or other; then she is taken back to her room; and in the lonely desolation and apparently perfect silence within its bleak white walls she is almost immediately overcome with a bout of vomiting and uncontrolled voiding, the domineering woman’s comments still ringing in her ears! 

More Pics Like This at Red Stripes - Minus the Annotation Of Course!
Or perhaps (see above) from time to time some sort of situation is engineered wherein through some sort of apparent ‘lapse’ she is able to get out from her room on to the corridor outside; for a while she is allowed to wander the passageways unchallenged as the feelings of fear and unease build within her, until the growing feelings of disorientation and dizziness get too great and she bangs on the nearest door in blind panic, to be greeted by a friendly smiling young woman in a nurse’s uniform who gently guides the sobbing and now grateful young thing – her symptoms now magically alleviated - back to her room where she enters without resistance, perhaps hurried along by a playful slap to her bottom, before the key is turned in the lock and she is again left alone with her thoughts and the nurse’s parting words reverberating around her skull: 

“You’ll feel safe in here, in your room – but only in here; it’s because of your mental state, dear, the problem you have with your mind; you mustn’t go and try and run away because it only makes you ill; you know that, don’t you!  You silly thing” And all the girl can remember doing in response is nodding in agreement and acquiescence and her own voice, simpering, a lisping near-whisper… “Yes, miss”.  Of course she knows the subject will be brought up again, and she’ll be made to relive this experience, in her next one-to-one psychotherapy session, and she’ll likely suffer a good dose of the psychotherapist’s cane across her bottom for trying to abscond, to reinforce the lesson she has just learned…

Or imagine something of the opposite, that hour after hour, day after day, night and day, she sits alone in her room, being eaten away by  a feeling of deep-seated near-phobic fear, self-doubt and dizzying spells of disorientation.  The smiling nurse arrives, or perhaps the psychotherapist, and suddenly all those dread sensations are swept away – until once again the key is turned in the lock and once again she is left alone.

In this scenario the idea is to induce a child-like – or even babyish – fear of abandonment. In the previous example the aim is to get her to the state where even if the door to her room is left wide open she will stay precisely where she has been placed.

But the problem in all this is that it does limit the scenario to the institutional – although I am rapidly coming to gain more and more enthusiasm even as I write, despite the fact that ordinarily I dislike the use of technology and overtly mind-altering drugs and so on in my stories (let alone nanobots ‘re-wiring’ the brain and so on – oh for God’s sake!  Why not just build a robot and be done with it?).  At home, though it is true if the ducting system is large enough you might just get lucky with an air-con system, the likelihood of the successful application of infrasound to aid gaining some sort of control over an individual is tiny; and NO, you can’t just use your HiFi system to generate frequencies of 17Hz or perhaps as low as 7 or 8Hz.  You’d need the kind of speaker system only available in big cinemas just to get below 20Hz with any real intensity - and even if you DID, there are two further problems; isolating the effect to a certain area (very low frequencies travel all too well through the structures of buildings – ask any sound-proofing engineer) and secondly the lowest frequency that can be experienced is related to the dimensions of the space in which it is being experienced, in terms of the sound’s wavelength (if that makes sense); it is the reason the main.. erhemm!...‘beneficiaries’ of huge speakers and sound systems in cars (automobiles) are those of us outside them going about our business and ‘lucky’ enough to be within earshot. 

BUT!  In an institution…  Ah well… with big heavy stone walls to isolate one section and another, it might be doable in an acceptably plausible manner, perhaps using the aforementioned tuned air duct / organ pipe method.

Incidentally, referring to the link, two things grabbed me.  One is that the author mentions two movies in which infrasound was used beneath the main soundtrack to dramatic effect by manipulating unease in the audience as to enhance their sense of horror at the drama unfolding on the screen.  Now, I don’t doubt this is true, given a big cinema with a sufficiently large auditorium and large sound producing apparatus (think also ‘Sensuround’ in the film Earthquake back in the 70s) but my point is, anybody buying either of those two movies on DVD is likely to be disappointed at the result on their home system – it just aint gonna work!  The second point is a technical one.  The author states, in regards his example of an air-con system and so on:

“…The reason for this is a phenomenon called Helmholtz resonance, which changes the frequency of a wave by constricting it in a cavity, in this case the long thin room.”

Err…No it don’t!  It can EMPHASIS one of a band of frequencies already present or within a harmonically-rich source over the others present (or indeed diminish it, as if placing a notch in the frequency response of a space or room) but it WONT change the frequency of the fundamental pitch.   Indeed Helmholtz resonators – suitably positioned - can be used to effectively cancel out and thus diminish sound reflections from certain areas of an auditorium thus modifying the auditorium’s acoustic ‘liveliness’.

By the way.  I just LOVE that there is an add for Nurofen tacked on at the bottom of the page!  Sooo apt somehow – don’t ya think!”

Well there you have it, folks.  Errr… folks… FOLKS… Is that snoring?

Oh well… Anyone wants to be bored with my thoughts on infrasound, acoustics, soundproofing, harmonic theory and Fourier analysis, electronic music synthesis (FM. Additive, subtractive – as long as it’s analogue I don’t mind), just let me know. LOL! 

Yeah, yeah… Guess what?  As well as having been an electronics engineer, biochemist, nutritionist and an interest in BSE / CJD I’ve also done a course or two in sound recording and studio design as well, back in the day, in addition to… oh never mind! Bye for now.  See you next time (if you’re still awake!)


Frise said...

A home cinema sub woofer is reasonably price and could maybe emit infrasound given the proper input signal and amplifier... Also I thought I read somewhere that the CIA used infrasound combined with loud Rock & Roll music, to get the former president of Panama, Noriega, out of his compound. So action at a distance may be possible.

Toyntanen said...

Hi again Frise

The thing is, we tend to sense infrasound within the body rather than with the ears which just don't function at those low frequencies. So what we are talking about is more like vibration than sound in a way, even though it is transmitted through the air, and for that it needs to be pretty intense (analogous to 'loud').

Now to reproduce a sound with any kind of efficiency a speaker system would need huge enclosures and very big drivers (speakers), especially in an enclosed space of limited dimensions. I have no idea how the CIA were generating their infrasound, but it was being used outdoors which removes one of the obstacles right away.

It's a matter of physics. Yes you can use clever speaker enclosure design to boost low frequencies - all manner of 'wave guide' ducts, cavities and ports - using a relatively compact speaker enclosure design, but what the manufacturers are really doing is introducing tailored resonance to combat the otherwise sharp frequency response roll-off at the low frequency end of the thing's natural range. One of the problems with today's compact designs is their inefficiency. To reach the sound pressure levels at say 60Hz or so we used to get from our big boxes fitted with 12 inch Goodmans base speakers (woofers)driven by perhaps 15-20 watts RMS back in the day nowadays would require 100-150 watts per channel to drive modern neat compact bass units. And a lot of the military experiments - if I remember rightly - were carried out down at 4-5Hz rather than 17Hz.

So no, you wont get a useable level of infrasound out of your home cinema system no matter what signal source you use - and you only need a test bench signal generator as a signal source in order to produce a decent sine wave down to below 1 Hz (the low frequency oscillators on my modular analogue music synthesiser - there are three - each produce nice clean sine waves down to 0.2 Hz!).

And why does the signal source have to be a sine wave (and a very pur one at that)? Simple dimple - at any sensibly high output the human ear would easily hear the harmonics contained within any more complex waveform such as a sawtooth or square wave.

Anonymous said...

There is a related concept that actually works: and