There’s a Gauss in the House

The arrival of my magnetic field strength meter (Gauss meter) has inspired me to look at a subject that seems to be the source of great confusion – frequencies and the spectrums they belong to.

As an AVS user, the two spectrums of interest are the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes light, and the sound spectrum which covers infrasound, audible frequencies and ultrasound. The electromagnetic spectrum manifests in several forms, including magnetism, non-ionizing radiation and ionizing radiation.

Let’s start with the sound spectrum. Sound is transmitted in the form of pressure waves, compression and rarification of the transmission medium. Sound transducers consist of some means of converting an electrical signal into motion. Speakers mostly use a coil of wire within a permanent magnet. When current flows through the wire, a magnetic field is produced, which is attracted or repelled by the permanent magnet, resulting in a cone, or diaphragm, moving in synchrony with the electrical signal. Other transducers, such as those used in many alarms and in ultrasonic applications, use the piezoelectric effect, where certain crystalline substances, including quartz and barium titanate, respond to an electrical potential applied to opposing faces by altering their physical shape. These shape changes act in the same way as the cone of a speaker, compressing and rarifying the transmission medium.

Our ears are designed to detect minute changes in air pressure at frequencies between about 20Hz and 20kHz. Most of the frequency discrimination occurs in the cochlea, where tiny hairs of varying mass, and hence resonant frequency, respond to vibrations channeled to them from the outside world. Each of these tiny hairs is attached to a nerve (neuron) which communicates the activity to deeper brain structures, where position and motion information is extracted, ‘noise’ is suppressed and autonomous responses dealt with, before the audio information is made available to the consciousness.

Sound is strictly ‘physical’ – it moves the medium, it moves the sensor. Damage caused by loud sound is real physical damage caused by pressure. At high frequencies, 100kHz+ used in ultrasonic measurement and welding, vibration of the medium is so rapid that vibration occurs at the molecular level, and at high powers heating is produced by the violence of the vibrations. Sound is non-invasive – it always acts on the surface (which in turn can act on deeper structures).

Sound is a very specific thing. Many audio sessions attempt to apply  information relating to the effects of electromagnetic stimuli. There is little or no solid evidence to support the idea that a significant frequency from any other spectrum can be implemented as sound and similar results be expected.

The electromagnetic spectrum ranges from DC (static electricity) through to gamma rays and beyond.

At the low frequency end we have the magnetic fields produced whenever current flows through a conductor. These are the kind of fields that people are concerned about living under high voltage power lines. These are also the fields of interest for weak-field magnetic stimulation and TMS. When another conductor, such as a neural axon, passes through a changing magnetic field, a current will be induced, the frequency matching the rate of change and the magnitude proportional to the field strength.

Magnetic fields occur when current flows through a conductor. Non-ionizing radiation occurs when there is sufficient energy to excite electrons in the medium to rise to higher energy bands. When these electrons fall back to their original levels, the excess energy is emitted in the form of photons. The energy of a packet of photons (quanta) is measurable as its frequency or wavelength. The visible spectrum includes wavelengths from short, high energy violet at about 400 nanometres to long, low energy red at about 700nm. Infrared radiation (longer than 700nm) is felt as warmth. Ultraviolet radiation is of such high energy that it can excite molecules of some materials to fluoresce, and affect molecular structures (DNA, cancer). Below visible light lies the radio spectrum, including microwaves. These relatively low frequency waves can be produced at such amplitudes that they can radiate over huge distances (long wave radio happily travels around the world) and heat materials (RF welding/microwave cooking).

Our eyes consist of neural cells specialised to produce an electrical impulses proportional to the energy of incoming photons. The wavelength, color, is differentiated by cells filtered by red, green and blue dyes, just as a color photograph uses filters to split the image into its component colors. There is considerable overlap in the ranges of the color receptors, with peak sensitivity at yellow/green. It is clear that our eyes are very much attuned to the spectrum of our Sun.

High ultraviolet is the low end of the ionizing radiation range. Ionizing radiation is of such high energy that it can literally split electrons off their atoms. Most ionizing radiation sources are radioactive, and the emissions are often referred to as rays or particles. You definitely don’t want to be confusing gamma brainwaves with gamma particles!

Magnetic fields, non-ionizing and ionizing radiation are invasive – they pass through many materials and can affect underlying structures.

Electromagnetic fields all conform to the inverse square law – the strength diminishes in proportion to the square of the distance from the source. Light is four times as bright at half the distance from a lamp. Sound also conforms to this law.

So, back to the field strength meter. The Murphy/Persinger information on the Shaktitechnology website indicates that the correct level for the Shakti device is 10 milliGauss. All of the low end headphones and earphones I tested can exceed this at high volumes. A typical 230V/12V adapter measures in at 50-100mG at a few centimetres. Dehumidifiers exceed the 199mG scale close up, and still measure 30-40mG at a metre. A standard stove element measures 30mG at 10cm. The tangle of cables at a 4-way power block measures 60mG in amongst the cables. A single 3-core 230VAC cable, loaded with an 1800W heater measures 40mG at 5cm. Laptops, monitors, etc, range from 2-10mG depending where the meter is placed.

What this tells me is that Persinger was not being obsessive when he set up a shielded room in the middle of nowhere to conduct his experiments. It would be nigh on impossible to distinguish the influence of fluctuating 10mG fields without first eliminating environmental fields.

An informal experiment last night, using a second pair of headphones driven by a separate amplifier showed that weak magnetic fields are likely to be interesting. Lying down with AudioStrobe set at a constant 10Hz, with the second pair of headphones behind my head, pads roughly over the visual cortex, changes in the perceived patterns were evident as the volume and pitch was varied. There is some ambiguity in these results, as I could still hear the headphones, and I’ve already demonstrated that sound affects visual perceptions, but various permutations of sound and placement suggest that the magnetic field is significant.

To the best of my knowledge we have no structures designed to make us consciously aware of magnetic fields or electromagnetic radiation outside of the visible spectrum. Any awareness we have of such things is likely to be a side effect, the result of influencing a mechanism that does not expect such influence. In the case of weak-field magnetic stimulus, I believe we’re altering, inhibiting or exciting,  the transmission of action potentials along neural axons. This is not a natural thing to do, although we are constantly exposed to fields that will do exactly this. The skull and the brain itself are carefully constructed to minimise environmental incursion, so anything we do to deliberately bypass this protection is invasive, and contrary to intended use.

I’m in no position to assess the health and safety aspects of experimenting with stimuli outside the range of our standard senses. I’m satisfied that I am already exposed to sufficient low frequency magnetic fields that if damage is to be done, it’s already done, and that I’m willing to experiment with magnetic stimulation. I think this is a decision that should be considered carefully.

I’ve left cranial electro-stimulation (CES) out thus far, because it is another thing entirely. It uses what is sometimes referred to a ‘Galvanic’ electricity – electron flow through a conductor. Such an electrical current has electrons moving through the medium, creating magnetic fields, inducing currents in neighbouring conductors, causing heating effects. To appreciate what CES might be doing, it’s necessary to look at an impedance (resistance to an alternating current) model of the head. With a voltage applied to each ear, current will flow through all possible paths, with currents proportional to the impedance of that particular path. The circulatory system of the scalp provides one excellent path, the subdural cerebro-spinal fluid provides another – both bypass the neural mass of the brain, so very little CES current gets to act on neural activity, and predicting where is very difficult.

Many websites go to great lengths to state that their technology uses energy or fields of a particular type, often emphasizing that they are not of a particular type. Unfortunately much of this information is misleading and confusing. In some case it’s obvious that the authors have no idea what they’re talking about. In others the deception is clearly deliberate, with implications that the vendor has discovered a new variation on the well known energy spectrums. A huge proportion of the information on energy healing techniques has no foundation whatsoever in currently recognised physics.

This is necessarily a very brief foray into the subject. Unfortunately such brevity leads to errors of omission, simplification and generalisation. If you’re planning on experimenting with magnetic fields and electromagnetic radiation, please make sure you do a good amount of research – due diligence takes on a whole new meaning when frying your brain is a distinct possibility.


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  • WillieG  On September 11, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Thanks. This certainly answered over 30 questions I had. Thanks for the class and definitions.

  • WillieG  On September 11, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Which also answers my question on DNA & 528Hz. Such a low freq cant possibly affect DNA… right?

  • craigtavs  On September 11, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Hi Willie,
    Wow, sounds as though I really hit the mark!
    528Hz as audio is completely safe. As flashing light – too high to distinguish. As magnetism, probably safe. Too low to radiate as anything but magnetism. But, as I said, I’m not the last word on matters of effect and safety – I’m just cobbling together information I find as best.

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