Non Essential Sound Products

A while back I offered my thoughts on a particular type of over-priced and over-hyped audio snake oil, namely power cables. So today I get my new issue of Bass Player magazine and what do I see? Why it’s an add from Essential Sound Products hawking their MusicCord AC power cord with the headline “Your stock power cord is choking your sound!” If you go to their site (which I won’t link to) you will find unsubstantiated claims about other AC power cords producing “Thin, One-Dimensional Tone; Attenuated, Gutless Bass Response; Hiss, Buzz and Noisy Backgrounds;  High-Frequency Roll-Off; Blurred Imaging; Bloated, Sluggish Bass Response” and other issues. Geez, I certainly wouldn’t want my bass guitar to suffer from “Bloated, sluggish, attenuated, gutless bass response”. Granted, I always thought that “bloated” was rather the opposite of “attenuated and gutless” in this sort of situation, but perhaps normal AC power cords are worse than I thought. Of course, you won’t find anything on their site in the way of serious double blind listening tests to validate these claims. As I offered a light critique in the afore-mentioned post, I won’t rehash it here. I only have three things to say regarding this company right now:

1. Apparently they have discovered (or are at least hoping) that naive musicians offer a profitable new market beyond tweak audiophiles. And hey, given that higher end basses are in the multi-thousand dollar range these days, maybe $100 for a power cord is well within the budget of the “tone paranoid”.

2. Not to be outdone by the power cord, the company also offers a six outlet power strip. With surge suppressor mind you! On sale, the bargain price of just a dollar short of $500. Why, you save $100 compared to the normal price! Gee, I can think of an alternate route: Go to the local hardware or electronics shop, pick up their most rugged surge suppressor power strip, give $100 to charity, buy a new stomp box, fold up a bunch of $20 bills and stuff them under the leg of that wobbly table in the back room to level it, and you’ll still be ahead.

3. They are not the worst offender. Look at this. That’s right, $3500 for an AC power cord.  This is nothing short of vile.

While searching for some material on this topic, I came across this article discussing whether or not there are audible differences attributable to power cords.  When I got to this part I just had to laugh:

To many in the engineering community, blind ABX is an accepted experimental design. Using the blind ABX protocol, we failed to hear any differences between an assortment of generic power cords and Nordost Valhalla. Therefore, we cannot conclude that different power cords produce a difference using the blind ABX protocol. However, we also cannot conclude that there are no differences. We simply failed to prove that differences can be detected to a statistically significant degree using a blind ABX protocol.

So in other words, if a proper double-blind test doesn’t reveal any differences, the only thing you have shown is that a double-blind test doesn’t reveal any differences. Apparently, there are no further consequences or conclusions to be drawn and it has nothing to do with what humans can or cannot hear. Brilliant!

ProAudio Review Jumps the Shark

As a long-time pro audio guy, I’ve been reading ProAudio Review for years. They do a good job of keeping me informed of the latest gear and spotting new trends. I received the September issue yesterday with the cover tease “Technically Speaking, Snake Oil Vs. Reality”. This was the topic of Editor Frank Wells’ column and I assumed that it was going to refer to a take-down of some dubious claims made by the “tweak audiophile” community from the perspective of audio professionals. What sorts of claims? Well, the audibility of $5000 loudspeaker cables, for example. What I discovered was pretty much the opposite.

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Typical climate-change denialism

By “typical” I don’t mean the sort of programmed distortions or shady and selective treatment of data common to people who speak in scientific language, but the output of right-wing bloggers who are scientifically illiterate. After all, there are a lot more people who don’t understand the pertinent concepts than folks who do. So, although to most Science Blogs readers the debunking of a workaday rant from the sort of clown still beating the OBAMA, HE NO HAVE PROPER BIRTH CERTIFCATE! drum (apparently these guys think that they’re eventually going to uncover something that the GOP and U.S. Congress obviously did not) is a superfluous exercise, it’s perhaps worth a glimpse at how your neighbor chooses to view things.
This Porter Good/William Teach guy writes for Stop the ACLU, so you already know he’s deftly combined the literacy of a fifth-grader with the analytical powers of snot and basted the result with the objectivity of Pat Robertson. He also has how own blog, and on this blog he wrote a post called “AGW Today: Mercury and OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” (Although an attempted foray into parody, this hysterical tone is, amusingly, pretty much this writer’s natural, unwavering style.)
I left a comment under his post, and I’ve more or less reproduced it below.

Continue reading “Typical climate-change denialism”

Typical climate-change denialism

By “typical” I don’t mean the sort of programmed distortions or shady and selective treatment of data common to people who speak in scientific language, but the output of right-wing bloggers who are scientifically illiterate. After all, there are a lot more people who don’t understand the pertinent concepts than folks who do. So, although to most Science Blogs readers the debunking of a workaday rant from the sort of clown still beating the OBAMA, HE NO HAVE PROPER BIRTH CERTIFCATE! drum (apparently these guys think that they’re eventually going to uncover something that the GOP and U.S. Congress obviously did not) is a superfluous exercise, it’s perhaps worth a glimpse at how your neighbor chooses to view things.
This Porter Good/William Teach guy writes for Stop the ACLU, so you already know he’s deftly combined the literacy of a fifth-grader with the analytical powers of snot and basted the result with the objectivity of Pat Robertson. He also has how own blog, and on this blog he wrote a post called “AGW Today: Mercury and OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” (Although an attempted foray into parody, this hysterical tone is, amusingly, pretty much this writer’s natural, unwavering style.)
I left a comment under his post, and I’ve more or less reproduced it below.

Continue reading “Typical climate-change denialism”

Why Breathe When You Can Swallow?

From a recent ad spotted in Running Times magazine, we discover a way to get oxygen into the bloodstream of athletes without using the lungs. Yes, it’s SportsOxy Shot from Scientific Solutions LLC. They’re selling “super oxygenated” water that’s supposed to drastically improve athletic performance. A “serving” is 10 milliliters and it contains 15 volumes percent O2. Hmmm, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals something interesting. Let’s say we have a decent (though not elite) runner with a VO2max of 60 ml O2 per kg per minute. Further, let’s say that they’re running at an easy pace and using maybe 2/3 rds of their maximal O2 uptake and they’re kinda small, maybe 50 kg. That’s a per minute O2 intake of 2 liters. Why do I get that impression that swallowing 10 milliliters of “highly oxygenated” water isn’t going to have much of an effect over the course of even a short race, such as 1500 meters?
Oh, and a 500 milliliter bottle is only $60, on special. Stop by and order yours today, and while you’re at it, check out some of their other great “products”.

So, when did you start to hate e-mail?

My use of electronic mail began over 15 years ago, with the client being Dartmouth College’s BlitzMail interface. This was back in the days when the word Internet was not frequently used, but terms like Gopher, Hyperstack, and NCSA were. As someone who even then enjoyed written communication, this was an endearing, even giddy novelty. Interestingly, 90% of the people I initially exchanged “Blitzes” with were classmates I sat in lecture halls with for four or more hours a day, but then friends at other schools and workplaces started getting e-mail accounts of their own, and the race was on.

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How long is it? No, really. How long is it?

From one of my favorite “Oh, my! Isn’t that quirky?” sites, technovelgy, comes Useful Body Modifications (submitted by Bill Christensen). Here we find a dude who has a ruler tattooed on the underside of his forearm…
ruler-tattoo.jpg
…others who have small magnets implanted under the skin to attain a “sixth sense” (WTF?) and finally, pierced glasses. The latter take the Pince-nez to the twenty-first century.
pierced_glasses.jpg
And here are the instructions from James Sooy and Oliver Gibson who have come up with this innovation:

  • Get pierced – an internally-threaded barbell that goes through the skin above the bridge of your nose.
  • Use a tabletop mill to cut the L-shaped metal pieces that screw onto the barbell.
  • Attach rare earth magnets to the glasses; these hold the glasses on.
  • Don’t get rid of the bridge pieces; they let the lenses sit on your nose and take the actual weight of the lenses.
  • Technovelgy’s byline is “where science meets fiction,” that is, scientific and technological innovations and oddities that reflect concepts introduced in science fiction. In this case, some of the body mods in William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age come to mind.
    No word if the rulered forearm is NIST approvable.

    “Miracle” Heater

    Our Sunday newspaper magazine section features a two page ad for a new “miracle” heating device that looks like a fireplace and features a “hand-crafted Amish mantel”. Check this out:

    The HEAT SURGE miracle heater is a work of engineering genius from the China coast, so advanced you simply plug it into any standard wall outlet. It uses less energy than it takes to run a coffee maker. Yet, it produces an amazing 5,119 BTU’s. An on-board Powerful hi-tech heat turbine silently forces hot air out into the room so you feel the bone soothing heat instantly. It even has certification of Underwriters Laboratories coveted UL listing

    The ad goes on to state that this device is so efficient that you can leave it on all day to keep you toasty warm, and for only pennies! Amazing! My, my, coveted UL listing!! Wow!!
    Bullshit.

    Continue reading ““Miracle” Heater”

    “Miracle” Heater

    Our Sunday newspaper magazine section features a two page ad for a new “miracle” heating device that looks like a fireplace and features a “hand-crafted Amish mantel”. Check this out:

    The HEAT SURGE miracle heater is a work of engineering genius from the China coast, so advanced you simply plug it into any standard wall outlet. It uses less energy than it takes to run a coffee maker. Yet, it produces an amazing 5,119 BTU’s. An on-board Powerful hi-tech heat turbine silently forces hot air out into the room so you feel the bone soothing heat instantly. It even has certification of Underwriters Laboratories coveted UL listing

    The ad goes on to state that this device is so efficient that you can leave it on all day to keep you toasty warm, and for only pennies! Amazing! My, my, coveted UL listing!! Wow!!
    Bullshit.

    Continue reading ““Miracle” Heater”

    Air Guitar Hero Cranks It to 11

    The 2008 Consumer Electronics Show wraps up today. As one might imagine, the show’s replete with the coolest and most dubious of technology for the “Entertain Me!” masses. This Air Guitar Hero offering from “Nitrous Roxide” is a fine example of the dubious.
    Here’s the explanation of the technology in a nutshell:


    Here’s another demonstration. Why, oh, why did he opt for van Halen instead of Deep Purple?

    I’m a mere bio-idiot, so I’m hoping Doc Acoustically-Enhanced-Jim will weigh in on this deliciously geeky device. I’ll just say that Nitrous Roxide needs a more believable wig.
    I can’t let CES 2008 go without the obligatory (and winceworthy) video clip of Bill Gates’ last full day of work at Microsoft.

    Air Guitar Hero Cranks It to 11

    The 2008 Consumer Electronics Show wraps up today. As one might imagine, the show’s replete with the coolest and most dubious of technology for the “Entertain Me!” masses. This Air Guitar Hero offering from “Nitrous Roxide” is a fine example of the dubious.
    Here’s the explanation of the technology in a nutshell:


    Here’s another demonstration. Why, oh, why did he opt for van Halen instead of Deep Purple?

    I’m a mere bio-idiot, so I’m hoping Doc Acoustically-Enhanced-Jim will weigh in on this deliciously geeky device. I’ll just say that Nitrous Roxide needs a more believable wig.
    I can’t let CES 2008 go without the obligatory (and winceworthy) video clip of Bill Gates’ last full day of work at Microsoft.

    “Smell You Later!” The DoCoMo Smellular Phone

    Gakked from Technovelgy:
    Here is a new cell phone that sports a replaceable scented strip on its body. Although it doesn’t transmit odors to the recipient of a phone call, it’s not a far cry from Fred Pohl’s joymaker, a fictional form of PDA described in The Age of the Pussyfoot:

    The remote-access computer transponder called the “joymaker” is your most valuable single possession in your new life. If you can imagine a combination of telephone, credit card, alarm clock, pocket bar, reference library, and full-time secretary, you will have sketched some of the functions provided by your joymaker.

    Hmmmm, that sounds like a near future relative of the iPhone.
    Now do I want it in vertiver or vanilla-mint?

    It’s math! It’s medicine! It’s linguistics! No, it’s…

    Superwoo!

    Kathara represents not only a unique source of awesome data, but also the Gateway to an unprecedented array of powerful (new) pre-ancient tools. Kathara Level-1 Techniques feature the Maharic Seal (see below), & also, discovery of the 4 Primary Triadic Healing Currents which is most profound, since the Technique reveals the means by which “Light Bodies” (Hova Bodies) can be utilize to access specific combinations of higher dimensional frequencies (significantly more so than existing modalities) to facilitate inter-dimensional skill, and power, in healing, for self & others, producing Co-generative Healing of the very finest.

    Continue reading “It’s math! It’s medicine! It’s linguistics! No, it’s…”

    So do chimps like pimps?

    There are quite a few sites like there that act solely as autmated aggregators of blog posts, presumably scanning titles and bodies of posts for certain keywords and pimping the entire post for display on the new site. I don’t particularly care; SEED might, although I haven’t followed some of the internal discussions on this. Since they seem to invariably include a link back to scienceblogs.com. there’s no cost to us to their spreading the “good” word.
    There’s a downside to this practice on the other end, of course.

    Continue reading “So do chimps like pimps?”

    An Alternate Theory on the Way Things Work: The Truth About Semiconductors

    In order to learn how to design circuits and systems using transistors and other solid state devices, students of electronics are told in their courses how semiconductors function. The atomic structure of crystalline silicon is examined in its intrinsic and doped states. Discussion of energy levels, conduction band electrons and hole production quickly follow. Soon, the student encounters the PN junction, a basic building block of modern electronics, and learns about majority and minority carriers, depletion regions, barrier potentials, leakage current and other exotica. All of this information is intended to explain just how solid state devices really work, and it all ends up sounding quite obtuse. It sounds so complicated in fact, that the student assumes that only a genius could design such devices and relegates him or herself to a lower paying engineering or technician job. This should not be the case!
    Recent investigation by this author has uncovered some startling facts:

    Continue reading “An Alternate Theory on the Way Things Work: The Truth About Semiconductors”

    Hypermiler or Hyperdumb?

    Mother Jones has an interesting article this month concerning hypermilers, that is, people who try to get the absolute highest possible fuel mileage out of their vehicles. Lots of folks are concerned about the environment along with high fuel costs, so I figured these drivers might be able to give me a few pointers. Boy, was I wrong.

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    The good news about IE7…

    …is that Microsoft’s latest version of its Web browser has gotten me off my fence-sitting, inertia-laden arse and inspired me to finally take up Firefox for good. The “improvements” bestowed upon V. 7.0.5730.11 include an increased number of hang-ups, a weird and unwieldy toolbar scheme, and a text-magification feature that renders everything broken and fuzzy and barely comprehensible regardless of the setting. I already have this problem at the user end, so I don’t need it on my screen. As it is, I averaged roughly three typos per modest-sized paragraph on a good day while using the Movable Type interface in IE6, and since the transition to IE7 this approximate figure has burgeoned spectacularly. I may still have to publish this seven or eight times, but hopefully no more than that.
    This post is dedicated to all those who want to rip into IE7 for any reason, lest I waver and be tempted to wallow in its various shortcomings.

    When exercise, doggedness and nerdhood collide

    Over the past year or two I’ve successfully severed or loosened many of my ties with distance running, a pathological habit and time sink of long standing. These days, when asked about the latest marathon-training articles and theories — including those appearing in the same magazine I supposedly write for — I’m perversely proud to admit that I haven’t seen them. But I still get out a fair amount, and though my thirst for competing has ebbed, my fascination with maps and mapping has not. As a result I can’t decide whether it’s surprising that I now own one of these, courtesy of the spirited young lady pictured with Sir Ronald in the left sidebar.
    For runners, GPS units can serve as — in no special order — toys, valuable training tools, or a means of hectoring event directors about the advertised-vs.-measured lengths of their road-race courses. Soon I’ll write about the evolution and technical aspects of rabble-ready GPS devices and the limitations imposed on their accuracy and usefulness, but for now I’ll offer an anecdote about a more low-tech but fondly remembered method of pace estimation I “invented” a number of years ago.

    Continue reading “When exercise, doggedness and nerdhood collide”