Saturday May 10 2008
I was hoping this week to attend a protest of patients and scientists in favour of human-animal hybrid embryo cell experiments outside parliament, discussing and explaining the science to MPs, chatting to people with Motor Neurone Disease who have concluded that christians’ sense of intuitive moral unease is not quite as important as a possible treatment for their illness, and wearing, obviously, a dog’s head and goat hooves with patches of hair glued crudely to my naked chest and legs.
But the Medical Research Council, who are older and wiser than me, sent out a circular email to discourage attenders. They explained that lobbying MPs would have a “negative impact” and might “actually be counter-productive” on their softly softly approach. They couldn’t support people who went, and if attending they should make it clear they have nothing to do with the MRC. Since I may one day be applying to them for a grant myself I’d like to clarify formally that I have no opinions. I will leave the real work on public engagement with science to the people who helped manage BSE, GM and MMR. I will not discuss the embryos. I will not distort their finely tuned message.
We would all do well to remember that elaborate runic rituals behind the scenes can have an enormous impact on what is heard. HiFi guru Russ Andrews was recently trashed by the ASA for making elaborate claims about a very expensive power cable. He believed he could affect what people heard simply by weaving a lot of wires elaborately into a clever and expensive little spiral. What buffoonery.
According to Shakti technologies, three small pieces of wood cut into a wavey shape called The Hallograph can modify the movement of sound information around a room. It is the result of over 10 years of research “studying the effects of the speaker/room interface”, during which the company learned “how to reduce the audibility of the chaotic reflections from the walls of the listening room so they won’t overpower and interfere with the direct sound from the speakers. The Hallograph contours the frequency, amplitude and time coefficients of the first reflections you hear.” Apparently this produces a stunning increase in clarity.
If you’re worried about any rough corners in what people hear, you could try the CD Stoplight, a pen that you rub around the edge of a Compact Disc “to reduce the scattered reflections of the laser beam and increase the signal-to-noise ratio of the detected laser”. The result is a significant decrease in harsh “edginess” and an increase in clarity and resolution at only $19.99 from Elusive Disc.
The Marigo Labs Signature 3D Mat has received glowing reviews from Home Theatre and HiFi and may also prove useful to the MRC. “Voices take on additional (natural) weight, depth and fullness. There’s also a greater sense of air and three-dimensionality, and a more natural decay to the sound. The differences are unmistakable.” This is a £100 Kevlar matrix mat that you stick on top of your source, with a funny little geometric pattern applied by hand using superfine silver strand in a proprietary array.
Meanwhile MusicDirect sell special supports which can change what people hear simply by lifting the cable off the floor. “The improvements you will hear in detail and dynamics are not subtle.” Cheaper than PR advice at just £80. Or you could go all out and invest in the Shakti On-Lines, little black matchboxes that attach to your HiFi cables with velcro for only $99. They eradicate any confusing noise in the signal, and produce “a blacker background that increases resolution and dynamics.”
I’m wearing one right now. Is it helping?
Bit busy on Friday with the dayjob, but Andrew Lansley’s speech on this in parliament was a particular travesty, especially on the Trent research, and exemplified heroic “have you read the paper?” wrongness. I might have to take it apart on Tuesday in time for the vote. Tra la.