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Chapter 6. The Gysin Device - Pg. 169

MAKE: PROJECTS Eccentric Cubicle 6 The Gysin Device Earn Your MBA from Good Ol' Altered State There's no shortage of hard evidence that photic stimulation of the optic nerve directly influences brainwave activity. Flash a light in your eyes at the right frequency, and weird shit happens inside your brain. a defrocked surrealist). Strobe lights were generally unob- tainium in 1959; the easiest way to achieve a reasonably controllable flickering illumination effect was by mechani- cally rotating a precisely perforated something-or-other in front of a light source. Light sources we can do. Mechanical rotation we can do. Precise perforation we can do. More on this whole brain wave frequency thing later. The basic plan, therefore, is this: get a record turntable, make a perforated cylinder to sit on it, then bung a lightbulb in the center. What could be easier? ! CAUTION: Before we go any further, something has to be made perfectly clear: this mechanism can trigger seizures in people prone to photosensitive epilepsy. The possibility is slim, but does exist. Be aware, be safe. Consult your physician or professional wellness facilitator. Warn your guests. Practice Safe Strobing. Carry on. What we are dealing with here is a mechanism of (liter- ally) biblical proportions. Based on his groundbreaking research into the modification and entrainment effects of strobing illumination on human brain waves, in 1946 Dr. W. Grey Walter 1 published a well-received paper which (among other things) postulated that the Old Testament "tree of knowledge" was a veiled allusion to the psycho- genic impact of flicker effects caused by the sun through palm leaves. That's right: enhanced creativity through visual stimulation. We definitely wanna get us some of that action. Who needs corporate seminars and MSCIE certification for upward career mobility when you can harness your sub- conscious for enhanced creativity? Furnish your office cube with one of these suckers and lucid-dream your way into a corner office. Here's the four-eleven: In the late 50s, Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville 2 put W. Grey's research into practice by constructing "The Dreamachine." Despite Gysin's insis- tence on wrapping the entire endeavour in a thick coating of Sufic mysticism (as befits a defrocked surrealist), their intentions were clear: to create a mechanism to aid in achieving an altered state of consciousness (as also befits 1 Turns out that besides being a groundbreaking physiologist, ol' W. Grey (the W. stands for William) was also a pioneer in (dig it) autonomous robotics utilizing tube circuitry A.I.s, thereby making him one of the coolest guys ever. Stable Illumination Now, instructions for building the Gysin Dreamachine are all over the intrawebs, but I've yet to see a build diagram that elegantly addresses the lightbulb-in-the-middle issue: hanging a socket and bulb from a conveniently located ceiling receptacle is overly dependent on the presence of said ceiling receptacle. We're not even gonna consider that kind of kludge. Dangling the bulb from a snorkel-like thingie extending over the cylinder is effective, but frankly looks a little lame from an industrial design standpoint. Fortunately, a bit of creativity affords us a graceful solution to the issue with the added bonus of significantly enhanced evenness of illumination. [Figure 06.01] 2 Gysin and Sommerville are themselves the sort of legendary Beat Generation intellectuals who changed the world in no small way. Gysin was a self-taught painter, poet, and musician, Sommerville a formally trained mathematician and technologist. Individually, and in collaboration with William Burroughs, their work in visual arts, written and spoken word, and music set benchmarks for mash-ups and remixes that few contemporary artists are even aware of, let alone capable of challenging. Exceptionally creative fellas. 158