1. Install a strobe light app on your phone (I used "strobe light tachometer" on ios.)
  2. Get some printed text like a nutrition label or a paper book
  3. Try to read the text with the light blinking at 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 hz
  4. Report results. Was reading with one frequency much easier than the others? Easier than with normal constant light? Were they all terrible?

I just tried this and my eyes totally glazed over for everything except 12! I was feeling kinda tired and unfocused when I started and 12 was easier than baseline for me. Although annoying. I have incandescent lights in my kitchen. I did not turn them off. The phone light was brighter than the incandescent light.

Framerate stuff:

  • Phone flashlights are not meant to blink really fast (and max frequency is not documented) but the app seemed to work ok. I did notice an irregularity here and there but I don't think that 12 being an even divisor of the flashlight frequency or something mattered.
  • If you have a 60hz monitor, then your screen can do a strobe light with 12, 10, 8.6, 7.5, or 6.7 hz. This is not very good resolution. A 120hz monitor should be good enough.
  • Would be better to test with a dedicated strobe light so this is not an issue.

More info about this experiment on first item here

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9 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:32 PM

Do you have a hypothesis you're collecting data for, or is this just fun for you?  I'm a little put off by the imperative in the title, without justification in the post.

Yes the hypothesis is that if you flash a light in sync with your alpha brain waves then focusing and learning is easier https://jacobshapiro.substack.com/p/teaching-at-the-brains-tempo https://academic.oup.com/cercor/article/33/9/5382/6814397?login=false

I see.  So the experiment is to see if you can find a frequency that is comfortable/helpful, and then figure out if it's likely to match your alpha waves?  From what I can tell, alpha waves are typically between 8 and 12 Hz, but I don't know if it varies over time (nor how quickly) for individuals.  

Unfortunately, the linked paper notes that the pulse is timed with the "trough" of the alpha wave, which is unlikely to be found with at-home experimentation.  That implies that it'd need to use an EEG to synchronize, rather than ANY fixed frequency.

I think maybe you can stare for a while until it syncs up, but i don't have an EEG. I also tried restarting the strobe a bunch to get on a different phase but didn't notice any difference

Some other things to try:

  • find a long hair on your arm
  • find an imperfection in your mirror or fridge door
  • count the number of quarters in a small pile
  • find an object you lost recently
  • figure out the weave on your jeans

Instructions were unclear as to whether the strobe should be the only light on the page, or supplement ambient light. (instructions didn't actually say to point the strobe at the text either, but the title implied it, so that's what I did)

With ambient light, all tested frequencies seemed mildly annoying but easy to ignore, like reading on a train that's going under a bridge.

Without ambient light, higher frequencies were annoying like trying to read by a fluorescent bulb that's dying. In the dark, lower frequencies presented an interesting experience like attempting to memorize the visual appearance of the text while the light was on in order to process it at a steady rate when the light was on and off.

I went up to 14hz and have yet to find one that seemed subjectively more pleasant or helpful than steady light, though this may be partly because I find it less subjectively pleasant/relaxing to analyze the experience of reading a book while doing it than to just read.

Too bad. Thanks for the report

I just tried 11.9 for a while and it looked almost psychedelic

I suggest you use a photodetector to countercheck the frequency (11.9Hz is easy using diodes, but [because of their frame rate] screens are much less compliant).