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Art Tuberculosis: “zombie robot sparrows”

February 25, 2013

Weird Science programs its zombie robot sparrows to KILL” by John Timmer about researchers that made robot birds from taxidermy and set it to fight with real birds, from the abstract:

The territory defense response of male swamp sparrows involves a variety of behaviors that includes both vocal and visual displays. One of these, the “wing wave” display, is a distinctive movement that predicts physical attack. Here, we use robotic taxidermic mounts paired with song to test the hypothesis that wing waving is a signal and, specifically, that male receivers respond to wing waving as a signal of aggressive intent.

Timmer takes issue with “sensory modality” but it’s important to think of wing movement as a modality for communication with implications on human gesture (note, “zombies” move differently). Also Timmer is suprised to learn that birds attack to kill the invading bird-machine. But it reminds me of the Jerzy Kosinski book “The Painted Bird” which includes a story about captured birds painted a different color, released back to their own kind, then killed by their former peers for looking different.


“The Painted Bird,” is told from the perspective of a young boy during World War II. He is considered a Jewish stray who is struggling to live during this chaotic period. Kosinski begins the story by introducing the war and linking it with the boy. The young boy’s parents are hiding from the Nazis, and he lives in a village with an elderly woman. When the woman dies, he is left to care for himself. From here, he journeys to another village where local townspeople turn him over to the Germans. He escapes and travels to another village, where he sees Jews and Gypsies headed to concentration camps. It is here that Kosinski adds some social commentary, describing the boy’s belief that to have fair hair and blue eyes is to be favored by God. Kosinski sums up a Bosch-like world of harrowing excess where senseless violence and untempered hatred are the norm. The boy travels from village to village in Eastern Europe. Throughout the rest of “The Painted Bird,” the boy endures various kinds of violence and cruelty. He wanders alone from one village to another, sometimes hounded and tortured, only rarely sheltered and cared for. He becomes an altar boy, and he is exposed to father-daughter incest. After being thrown into a manure pit, he becomes mute. Only at the end of the novel does he become reunited with his parents and regain his speech.

See other ZombieLaw Angry Birds
or more ZombieLaw Science
or posts with links to zombie Ars articles (which may henceforth be known as “Art Tuberculosis” because of auto-correct humor)

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From → Academics

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