NASWA Journal Columns · Technical Topics, April 1998

Joe Buch, N2JB • P.O. Box 1552 • Ocean View, DE 19970-01552 joseph.buch◊

Technical Topics, April 1998

Better DXing Through Chemistry

The number of short-wave listeners has declined over the past 5 years. The decline is due mainly to two causes: The rise of the Internet; and the absence of any really bloody wars to follow on short-wave radio. This fall-off in SWLs has really put the squeeze on NASWA’s finances. To save money NASWA management contemplated shutting down the world famous research facility, The NASWA Research Lab (NRL).

Only two weeks before the ax was to fall, NASWA scientists announced another astounding development. It proved again the laboratory’s worth to the short-wave listening hobby. NASWA management has decided to postpone shut-down of the lab for at least another year as a consequence.

“What have they done?”, you ask. They have invented a new way to enhance your ability to pull those weak stations out of the noise. This month I’ll report on this new discovery and its evolution.

The NRL scientists studied the reasons for the drop in membership. The NRL concluded that the absence of interesting, relevant, program content was driving away program listeners.

The little programming worth hearing is often more readily available and better-sounding via the Internet. Listeners quickly learned to point and click their way around the world without regard to jammers, time of day, or sunspots. The NRL scientists presented the findings of their preliminary study to NASWA management. NASWA decided to keep listeners interested (and dues-paying members of NASWA) by converting them from program listeners to DXers. NRL then set out to develop a carefully planned behavior modification program.

As a first step to developing such a program, the NRL conducted a study of what makes a good DXer. What drives the good DXer to dig deeper into the noise to pull out that elusive ID? Are there some common personality traits that define the really good DXers? What keeps DXers sitting for hours listening to noisy, jammer-ridden signals in an obscure language? Find answers to these questions. The plan was to warp the personalities of program listeners into the personalities of world-class DXers.

To begin their study, NRL engineers visited several short-wave DXpeditions. From the back woods of Gifford Pinchot State Park in PA, the sandy shores of Cape Hatteras, and the rocky coves of coastal Newfoundland, they observed North America’s best DXers in action.

Surprisingly, they did not find any particular personality trait to be common to all DXers. Some were competitive; others were laid back. Some were boorish and obnoxious; others were calm and considerate. Some were methodical, having planned every listening moment. Others would randomly tune the bands until they found a signal nobody else had reported before.

One thing did stand out as being common to all DXpeditions. Most of the participants got very little sleep and consumed massive amounts of junk-food, beer, and luncheon meat. Could this be the secret to better DXing? The quest now moved into the laboratory.

Ten NASWA DXers volunteered to move to the NRL laboratory. Six months of intensive experimentation followed. NRL will not reveal the identities of the volunteers to protect their privacy.

NRL scientists took precautions to ensure the test results would be unbiased. NRL supplied all participants identical R-390A receivers. NASWA member Chuck Rippel carefully restored and certified the receivers as having identical sensitivity. A multicoupler fed all receivers from a common antenna.

Five of the volunteers were limited to 3 hours sleep daily. Volunteers ate a diet rich in high-fat snack foods, beer, bacon, eggs, hot dogs, pastrami, liverwurst, and various exotic sausages. The five volunteers in the control group got at least 9 hours sleep daily. The control group ate only steamed or raw vegetables, skimmed milk, poached fish, sourdough bread and water.

Half way through the experiment, the control group switched receivers with the others. The switch made sure that receiver differences did not bias the results.

The volunteer DXers in both groups listened as much as they wanted. They set their own sleep, listening, and eating schedules.

The results of these experiments were astonishing. Consumers of the high-fat diet, who drank mass quantities of beer, and got three hours sleep demonstrated a 6 dB gain in ability.

NRL scientists measured physiological parameters of the volunteers in both groups. As expected, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood thickness were found much lower in the control group. The group with enhanced DXing ability not only had elevated levels of these parameters but also seemed to have periodic hallucinations. These were probably aggravated by the lack of sleep and the poorer circulation resulting from the build-up of plaque in the arteries feeding the brain.

NRL scientists concluded the fat-gobbling DXers were actually imagining many of their best catches.

So, if you ever wondered why these DXpeditions turn in such fantastic loggings, you now should understand. It is not the 1000 foot beverage antennas, well aligned receivers, nor superior low-noise locations. The good DX loggings are largely the result of the enhanced imagination of the participants caused by the consumption of high-fat foods, beer, and little sleep. Restricted blood flow to the brain was proven to add at least 6 dB to the ability to hear (or imagine to hear) that weak ID or interval signal buried in the noise.

OK, so how can you take advantage of these new findings? NASWA, as usual, has come to the rescue with a new product available only from the NASWA Company Store. The NASWA High Fat Foods For Better DX Cookbook is now available. Kris Field runs the store. You can order the cookbook from the address on the back cover of The NASWA Journal.

Disclaimer: NASWA has not obtained US Food and Drug Administration nor Canadian Government approval for the diet described in this article. Although the foods included are readily available, members must use some degree of prudence. The long term consequences of high-fat diets, excessive beer drinking, and prolonged sleep deprivation were not measured by the NRL scientists. NASWA has no responsibility for the collateral consequences of the abuse of these imagination-enhancing techniques.

Over the next year NRL scientists will conduct additional experiments to determine the effect of certain hallucinogenic drugs on the ability to ferret out even weaker signals. Ultimate gains of 12 dB may be possible. Volunteers are requested to use the application form in the back of the cookbook. NRL will supply the drugs free of charge. Drug dealers are invited to submit quotes directly to the NRL procurement office. This experiment will conclude on April 1, 1999. Until next time, stay tuned.

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