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08 Dec 03:45

A 120-Year-Old Mechanical Device that Perfectly Mimics the Song of a Bird

by Christopher Jobson

A 120 Year Old Mechanical Device that Perfectly Mimics the Song of a Bird device birds automata

Get out the headphones or turn up your speakers and prepare to be impressed by archaic 19th century engineering. Relying on dozens of moving parts including gears, springs, and a bellows, this small contraption built in 1890 was designed to do one thing: perfectly mimic the random chatter of a song bird. At first I expected to hear a simple repeating pattern of tweets, but the sounds produced by the mechanism are actually quite complex and vary in pitch, tone, and even volume to create a completely realistic song. I think if you closed your eyes you might not be able to tell the difference between this and actual birdsong. It’s believed the machine was built 120 years ago in Paris by Blaise Bontems, a well-known maker of bird automata and was recently refurbished by Michael Start over at The House of Automata. Can any of you ornithologists identify the bird? If so, get in touch. (via the automata blog)

Update: And if you liked that, check out this pair of matching signing bird pistols that sold at auction last year for $5.8 million.

07 Dec 21:01

No Joke

Why Even Tragedy Gets A Laugh — When comedian Tig Notaro found out she had breast cancer, she incorporated the grim news into her stand-up routine--and got quite a few laughs from the audience. Notaro and neuroscientist Robert Provine discuss the origins of laughter, what separates the amusing from the truly funny, and why even tragedy sometimes gets a laugh.

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07 Dec 20:13

Schools over!

by (Adam Campbell)
Hi Mom! School is over, as you know.. I'm sorry I haven't updated in ages, in the time I've been away I interned at Disney, had an amazing senior year, and have been mostly super busy making a film with my good friends Uri and Elizabeth. We just posted a trailer which I'm embedding here, check it out! (Make it fullscreen) The film itself will be out soon, so hold tight! Otherwise.. I'll be interning this summer at Pixar as a story artist and I'll post again soon with actual drawings!