Sunday, September 29, 2013

chicken head tracking

There few things I enjoy more than chicken head tracking. Check out this new Mercedes-Benz commercial!  Apparently, the video is highlighting the The Magic Body Control system which combines the "advantages of the Active Body Control (ABC, which is an active suspension system) with the newly-developed Road Surface Scan function, which is a stereo camera that scans the road ahead and prepares the car's suspension for uneven surfaces."  (If you are interested in the car-related stuff, you can read more here.)  But, on to chickens... 

Here's perhaps the most "famous" chicken-head tracking video:

Here's a post on npr where Krulwich ponders this same topic.  I tried to find some scientific sources to explain why this happens, the closest I found was an article entitled "How some birds keep their eyes on the prize" (which was eventually published) explaining the "aerodynamic trick [which] enables a bird to attain stabilized vision beneficial for the inspection of the environment."

Apparently, NASA originally did research on the vestibular sensory system of owls, back when they were looking at the effects of space travel on humans.  As this post does a good job explaining,
The vestibular system, located in the inner ear, is used by many vertebrates to maintain their sense of balance. It is comprised of three semi-circular canals that contain small "rocks", properly known as otoliths. Together, they provide information to the brain about the movement and location of one's head and body in space. 
It works like this: the three semicircular canals sense rotational movements and the otoliths sense linear accelerations. This information is integrated by the brain and used to help control eye movements so we don't become dizzy and to help our postural muscles keep us upright. 
So, humans participate in head-tracking, too, but birds (and some other animals) are just ridiculously good at it.  (The aforementioned post also includes an owl-head tracking video, compliments of this NASA research.)  You can read WAY more about the inner ear and your vestibular system on this NASA page.

Finally, according to some sources, the chicken head tracking commercials are not all that original.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

meet the Algaculture Symbiosis Suit - or algae helmet!

Last year, artists Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta (known as Burton Nitta) debuted the Algaculture Symbiosis Suit outside the Victoria and Albert Museum. There, an opera singer wore the suit and sang to the crowd, generating enough new algae populations during her performance that audience members were treated to a post-show snack.  According to a video clip, the "composition of the song and the singer's vocal technique are redesigned to specifically produce algae and enrich its taste. To do this, the composer and singer use the new science of sonic enhancement of food where different pitches and frequencies make food taste either bitter or sweet."

But this is not just for opera singers.  You, too, could wear an algae helmet!

A series of tubes, placed in front of the mouth, capture carbon dioxide and feed it to a constantly-growing population of suit-embedded algae. But algae needs sunlight to grow, right? Easy, the wearer just needs to sit by a window or go outside. (source)

Burton Nitta call their creation Algaculture, and describes it as designing a "new symbiotic relationship between humans and algae" in which we become semi-photosynthetic! You can read more here or on their website where you can scroll down to see more pictures and an even creepier video.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

what does The Fox say?

It's been one week since this video was posted and has become quite the meme at our middle school.  This tune is one of a string of wacky videos made by Ykvis (brothers Vegard and Bård Ylvisåker) for their late night comedy show.  The tune is catchy and fun, and the lyrics are hilarious!

My favorite part is the flurry of media that has been created around what the fox actually DOES say.  (Wired, Huffington Post (inclluding its ridiculous comedic remix), and a fabulous article by Popular Science)
In Norway, where Ylvis is from, there are two species of fox: the arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) and the red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Here in the States, we have a few others, like the gray fox and the kit fox. All species of fox have a pretty wide variety of vocalizations, just as dogs and cats do. It's simple to reduce, say, a dog's vocalizations to "bark," but as any owner knows, dogs can yelp, whine, howl, growl, and make all kinds of other sounds. Foxes aren't quite as varied in their vocalizations as dogs, but they're still capable of making lots of different sounds. [PopSci]

But, in reality, most of us are happy to hypothesize along with Ylvis.

“A-hee-ahee ha-hee”