The Mathematics of Sex Toys…

…in which we learn just how big a stinker Franklin is.

Okay. So. Long story behind it, but I have on my balcony a large Tupperware container filled with sex toys. Vibrating eggs, to be exact. At one point, I had about 250 of them. I keep giving them away to people (in fact, I’ve been known to refuse to let guests leave the house unless they take one with them), and now I’m down to about 20.

Which is still a lot of vibrators, just for the record.

Some time ago, I read online about a guy who’d taken a vibrator and connected it to a Basic Stamp–think “little tiny computer on a single chip”–that he had programmed to switch the vibrator on and off at random intervals. The idea, you see, was to play with a quirk of human physiology.

Quick dissertation about human anatomy: The way our sensory nerves work, if you present the same stimulus to the same part of the body without varying it, eventually, your sensory nerves will quit responding to it. Take a toothpick and put it on your palm; you’ll be able to feel it. Leave it there long enough without moving it or your hand and eventually you’ll stop feeling it.

The sexual organs are no different than any other organ in this regard. Flip side of the same coin, if you vary the stimulation presented to a sensory nerve, it’ll keep informing your brain “Hey! The stimulus has changed!” and you won’t be able to ignore it.

Now, this guy had programmed his Basic Stamp to switch a vibrator on and off at random, but fairly short, intervals. The idea was to create an infuriating sex toy–a sex toy that, when you wear it, you absolutely can not ignore. Because the stimulation is random, you don’t become acclimatized to it–and if it switches on and off quickly enough, it also doesn’t stay on long enough to get you off. So basically, he created a sex toy that will make sure you always pay attention to it but won’t make you come.

If you draw a graph of the way the sex toyy switches on and off, you get something like this:

There’s vibration, then no vibration, then vibration, then no vibration, for randomly varying periods of time:
bzzzzz….bzz………bzzzzzzzzzz..bzzz……bzzzzz… you get the idea.

Now, that’s good and all, but the vibrators I have are equipped with a little thumbwheel speed control. When one of my partners is foolish enough to put me in charge of the control pack for one of these things, I like to run my thumb up and down the speed wheel thingy, making the vibrator go FASTER and slower and FASTER and slower.

So I started thinking, why not program a computer to run the vibrator for random times at random speeds? From there, I started thinking about how to actually code for that.

Now, it seemed to me, as I was thinking about it on the bus on my way down to Tallahassee, that the most obvious way to go about this is to take a bunch of sine waves and put them together. One can construct a waveform of nearly arbitrary complexity by merging together sine waves of different frequencies, via a mathematical bit of wizardry called a fast Fourier transform.

For example, suppose we have something like this:

The sum of the red sine wave and the blue wave (which is itself a composite of three sine waves) looks a bit like this:

Now, feed that into a vibrator and it should keep a person infuriatingly close to orgasm without letting her get off or ignore the vibrator just about indefinitely.

The thing is, you want a wave that looks random. Any composite of a finite number of sine waves will be periodic (that is, at some point it will start to repeat), so you want something that looks random and also has a long periodicity. I was thinking about how to choose a relatively small number of sine waves–say, sixteen or so–in such a way as to maximize the periodicity and also maximize the apparent randomness when combining them with an FFT. Make the ratios of their periods prime? Stuff like that?

I was hampered somewhat by the fact that I also know fuck-all about how to actually do an FFT, too, which means that basically I know squat about the best way to go about choosing the sine waves.

Shelly’s dating a physicist, though. And he took one look at the problem and observed that a fast Fourier transform isn’t really necessary; it’s using an anti-aircraft cannon on a mosquito.

His idea, which is brilliant, is this:

Take a sine wave whose period is the interval of time over which you don’t want the pattern of the vibrator to repeat. Add it to itself with a period of double that, and add it to itself with a period of three times that, and again with a period of five times that. (Geeky readers will already see where this is going: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5… is the Fibonacci sequence.)

You don’t need very many sine waves to get a right royal (and therefore random-looking) mess.

So, in theory, it will be remarkably simple to make The World’s Most Annoying Sex Toy(tm). A little bit of simple programming and some kind of variable interface and the result should be a vibrator that will drive the wearer right straight up the fucking wall for hours, with no relief in sight.

I am such a stinker.

Fortunately, the world is saved by the mere fact that I don’t at the moment have time to actually build one of these. Yet.


Thoughts and fragments from the last weekend, and other miscellaneous assorted stuff. Ready? Here we go!

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned by fisting my girlfriend at a play party

– Trying new things is fun.

– Stretching one’s boundaries may be uncomfortable, but the reward is more than worth a little discomfort.

– It’s difficult to predict in advance what one will or will not enjoy. The only way to learn one’s self is by systematic experimentation.

– Life rewards courage.

– Life is not a spectator sport, but sometimes having an audience makes things just that much better.

Meetings and new friendships

The weekend was a blur of new faces. I met cunningminx, libbydabomb, scathedobsidian (who is an outstanding writer; I highly recommend his journal), and jaded_dreamer; shot pool with shinyobject; and variously up-met-with, around-hung-with, and otherwise associated with a startling number of people who very probably do not have LiveJournal accounts (or at least do not have LiveJournal accounts I know about).

I did not get to meet amorsalado or purplebard, on account of missing furniture and such. Maybe next time.

Quotes Out of Context

“I only hurt you because it gets me off.”

“Sucking cock is contextual.”

“An irrational trigger around sex? Oooh, shiny! Let’s play!”

(okay, so the last isn’t technically from the weekend, but still…)

Jesus Christ, Metrosexual!

Sunday, dayo and I staggered out of bed at the ungodly hour of noonish or so, after a rousing and lively Saturday evening that included, among oter things, meeting many cool people and chaining dayo up in a sling. We were awaiting the arrival of cunningminx, who’d promised to be by in about half an hour, so were quite surprised (and scrambling to fix the indecent states our states were in, being indecent and unclothed) when the doorbell rang some five minutes later. “But…but…she promised us half an hour!”

Was it cunningminx? Oh, no. It was a babble of Jehovah’s Witlesses, come to preach the good news that a Zombie Messiah had risen from the dead to pardon us from a collective sin visited upon us when a woman made out of a rib was persuaded by a talking snake to eat an apple.

Anyway, they left some literature, which included on its cover this picture of Christ the Messiah:

The first thing I couldn’t help but notice is that, my, that Jesus looks awfully Caucasian for a Middle Eastern Jew. cunningminx also observed that he clearly uses Product in his hair, and his beard is remarkably neat for a person living in the desert in a pre-industrial society.

He’s got great teeth, too.

I had no idea that Jesus was a metrosexual. The things one can learn from Watchtower publications…why, they’re nearly as informative as Chick tracts!

Andre the Giant has a possee

Apparently, the Andre the Giant has a Posse crowd has made it to Atlanta. Spotted this sticker in Little Five Points a couple weeks back, stuck to the back of a road sign:

I’ve posted here before with examples of the same kind of agitprop in Tampa, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in Atlanta. I’m extremely impressed with the quality of the design work on this sticker.

Two steps forward, two steps back. That seems to be the general theme these days.

In the “two steps forward” category, I’ve finished the first go-round of the new SymToys site. I say “first go-round” because I have planned a LOT more content; in the interests of getting it online, I scaled back three times. Eventually, I’ll probably end up adding a very long list of kinky sex ideas and scenarios, several more BDSM tutorials (including a lot more do-it-yourself toys!), a review section, and a radical expansion of the flogging how-to pages. I’ll be adding a lot more photographically, as well, as I have time to do some more shooting–some of the current pages are pretty stark. (Thanks to Shelly, joreth, dayo, my non-LJ friend Stephanie, and everyone else who helped with modeling, suggestions, ideas, and proofreading!)

I’m very pleased with the look and content so far. It represents a lot more work than you might think. Check it out! If you feel up to it, add something to Whispers!

Now my attention has turned to the book on polyamory I’ve been off-again, on-again working on for quite while. It’s on again, and will be my #1 priority for the foreseeable future, with my #2 priority being to finish Onyx 3–which could conceivably be done (finally!) next week.

The “two steps back”–still dealing with all kinds of financial problems related to working for a small startup. Ugh.

Tonight I’ll be in Chicago to visit dayo! *bounce*

It’s shaping up to be a really busy weekend. Drumming and fire spinning (yay! I can hardly wait!) tomorrow; then clubbing at Neo. Saturday, we’re talking about doing the Ren Faire and then heading to GD. Sunday’s still up in the air, but I know that I’ll be having brunch with cunningminx at the least…I’m looking forward to meeting her in person (finally!). With a bit of luck, we’ll be seeing her before then, too.

I know that there are some other chicagoites on my flist; if you think you might want to hook up this weekend, drop me an email! tacitr [at] aol (dot) com.

Some time soon, I need to post a review of this:

I don’t normally gush about stuff like this, but… seriously, coolest sex toy EVER. Like, in the entire history of human sexual expression. Really, it’s that cool. dayo, I’ve already got it packed for the trip…

Some thoughts on nanotech’s dark side

Iran is currently working on obtaining fissionable uranium which can be used for nuclear weapons. This is presenting something of a thorny issue for our current Simian-in-Chief, whose approval rating is dipping perilously close to single digits over his mismanagement of the botched and ultimately pointless war in Iraq. We currently lack the political capital and the military and financial resources to mount any kind of overt action in Iran, wishful thinking of the pro-war Far Right aside. None of this is news to anyone who’s not been living under a bridge for the past four years or so.

There’s some good news and some bad news in this situation, none of which has anything to do with American politics or the situation in Iraq. The good news is the part that says “Iran is currently working on obtaining fissionable uranium which can be used for nuclear weapons.” This is good news because, more than fifty years after Word War II, it still requires a major committed effort on the part of an entire nation to obtain fissionable uranium which can be used for nuclear weapons. The bad news is generic programmable nanotech assemblers. The good news is that these don’t exist yet. The bad news is that they will.

The process of enriching uranium is delicate, costly, complex, and fiddly. The Reader’s Digest Condensed Version is this: Uranium occurs in nature in two isotopes, U-235 and U-238. The difference is the number of neutrons in the atomic nucleus of the uranium atoms. U-238 has three more neutrons in the nucleus than U-235 does.

The vast majority of the uranium in nature is U-238. U-235 is quite scarce, making up just over one-half of one percent of the uranium you can dig up out of the ground. For various complicated reasons that have to do with Science and are beyond the scope of this post, U-238 doesn’t go boom. In order to be useful to people who want to make things go boom, uranium needs to be “enriched,” meaning that the percentage of U-235–the kind that does go boom–needs to be increased.

This process is really, really, really hard to do. Essentially, you take your uranium and combine it with fluorine to form a gas called uranium hexafluoride. You then put this gas into a special centrifuge and you spin it really, really fast for a really, really long time. A tiny percentage of the U-235, which is just oh such a little bit lighter (by the weight of three neutrons) than U-238, ends up at the top. Then you take some of the gas out of the bottom, where it’s more U-238, and put the remaining gas into a second centrifuge, which you spin really, really fast for a really, really long time. You keep doing this over and over and over again for months, and you’re left with a little bit of enriched uranium hexafluoride, which you take the fluorine atoms off of to end up with uranium.

The centrifuges are complicated and difficult to make, even if you’re an entire country. The process is so delicate that if one of your workers sneezes while it’s happening, the whole shebang gets all mixed up again and you have to start over. Even with billions of dollars on hand and the resources and will of an entire nation behind you, making nuclear bombs is tough to do.

There is this notion that once a nation acquires nuclear weapons and realizes how destructive these things are, that nation tends to become very, very reluctant to use them. In the history of the world, only two have been used in war. There are historians who will argue that the existence of nuclear weapons has likely averted a third world war; these weapons are so bad that nobody really wants to use them, so nations that have them tend to think twice about getting into shooting matches with other nations that have them.

Of course, this assumes people are reasonable. This is often, but not always, the case. Witness 1 for the prosecution: Kim Jong Il, the poster boy for “deranged psychopaths,” who just so happens to be the leader of North Korea, a nation which just so happens to have nukes.

I tend to think the notion that nuclear weapons have a calming effect on countries is a historical artifact, because they’re so hard to make that only highly industrialized, rationalist nations get them first. There is a correlation between countries with stable, rational governments,and countries which are wealthy and industrialized.

Don’t look at me like that. Compared to Kim Jong Il, Josef Stalin is a model of reason and rationality. And George W.’s administration didn’t invent the Bomb. Had all our nation’s leaders been like W, we would never have become a First World nation to begin with, and we may still not be a First World nation by the time he leaves office. Half a trillion dollars drained out of the nation’s economy to finance a war against a paltry and largely unmilitarized Third World country…but I digress.

The point is, making nuclear bombs is tough and expensive, even for entire nations. Your next door Al Qaeda cell isn’t going to get one any time soon, wishful thinking of the pro-war Far Right aside.

But hold on. Things are getting better.

Nanotechnology is a cutting-edge new technology that offers the promise of doing for manufacturing, medicine, and materials engineering what electronics did for computation. Right now, human technology is barbaric and primitive almost beyond reason. We like to think that we’re high-tech, but we’re not. The process by which we make things has hardly changed since flint knives and bearskins. We take a piece of something, we whack off all the bits that don’t look like what we want, until we get what we do want. Today the whacking is done by computer-controlled, automated CNC milling equipment instead of with a big rock, but essentially it’s the same. Our processes for making stuff are better, but our basic techniques have scarcely changed.

The Holy Grail of manufacturing nanotech is the universal programmable assembler, a hypothetical device that makes stuff the way the cells in your body made you–at an atomic scale, one molecule at a time. The theory is simple: you take a bunch of little programmable machines, each of which is the size of a couple dozen molecules or so, and you program them with what you want to make. Then you give them some carbon, iron, or whatever, and they make that thing for you from the ground up, one molecule at a time. It’s the ultimate dream manufacturing technique; if you can conceive it, you can make it. (Of course you don’t want to make stuff literally one molecule at a time; when I say a “bunch” of assemblers, I mean like “a few billion.”)

It’s less farfetched than it sounds. Read Engines of Creation. Go ahead; I’ll wait.

You back? Cool stuff, right? Radical longevity, effortless and cheap manufacturing that doesn’t pollute or deplete natural resources, personalized cancer cures that cost less than a low-end Dell desktop. The advent of nanotechnology will arguably change human civilization more than the advent of agriculture did.

If we live that long, that is. You see, nanotech offers the promise of building stuff on a molecular level. Nanotech assemblers manipulate matter on the level of individual molecules. Forget that complicated, tedious mucking about with expensive and finicky centrifuges and uranium hexafluoride; dissolve your uranium in hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide, stir in some nano devices that sort out the U-235 bits from the U-238 bits, and wait. Enriching uranium is removed from the realm of entire nations and brought down to the level where anyone who’s having a bad hair day can do it.

If he can get the uranium to begin with, of course. It’s not like you can buy it at the corner grocery. But we’re a clever species; someone will figure out how to solve that problem. 🙂

I am a slave to my computer overlords

Did I say overlords? I meant protectors.

The company I work with has made a multimedia presentation that explains how our lightning detection gizmo works, and talks about storm and lightning safety and suchlike. It’s turned out to be a very effective sales tool, so we’ve made (or rather, I’ve made) several different versions of it for our various distributors, which feature the distributor’s logo and contact information, and safety information specific to whatever industry the distributor focuses on.

Last week, one of our distributors asked for 1,000 copies of their custom-tailored version of the presentation on CD-ROM. Now, we don’t have time (or, to be fair, money) to send it out for commercial CD duplication, and we don’t have a duplicator.

That means my last several days have been consumed creating CDs. I have a [MacPro computer] and a [Multimedia Presentation] and [1000 Blank No-Name CD-Rs], and I’m combining them into [1000 Multimedia CDs]. Man, I thought the quest line to get [Reins of the Onyx Netherwing Drake] was tedious!

So if anyone’s been wondering why I haven’t been around much lately, that’s the reason. On the whole, I think the grinding to get [Reins of the Onyx Netherwing Drake] is probably more satisfying.

New poly article in The Orlando Weekly

The Orlando Weekly has published an article about polyamory, which appeared in the newspaper yesterday and is now available online. It focuses primarily on joreth and her relationships with her partner Ki and me. The Web site’s registration and login process seems to be broken at the moment, so as of right now it does not appear to be possible to leave comments. [Edit]: Apparently the login and commenting system is working now.