Thursday, August 10, 2006

California Pigeons come equipped with cell phones and backpacks






According to an article in today's LA Times, a combined art/technology project is equipping pigeons with tiny back packs and cell phones and letting them roam the skies in Northern California. The equipment will monitor smog and other air pollution, and then transmit the data back to a "pigeon blog" website. The project is intended to get people to think about the health hazards of air pollution.

Beatriz Da Costa, an assistant professor of arts, computation and engineering at UC Irvine, was inspired by a century-old photo of a homing pigeon wearing a tiny spy camera. The birds have a long history of military service — and some received medals for their World War II heroics.

Now, pigeons have entered the Digital Age. Da Costa and two graduate students spent a year developing bird-sized cellphones, GPS tracking devices and air pollution monitors. (Sorry, still no sign of a pigeon iPod.)


PETA is opposed to this - they feel that the backpacks are too heavy (they weigh less than 1/10th of the birds' weight) and might cause injury. But the pigeons are racing pigeons, and considered to be well-trained athletes in peak condition.

I wonder if they're going to test positive for testosterone afterward?

11 comments:

pissed off patricia said...

Jez, I don't know how I feel about this. Why cell phones? Won't the battery die in a couple of days? Do they recharge the birds?

karena said...

This story is a bit on the weird side. What is up with the cell phone? How do they recharge the pidgeon? I don't trust this for some reason. I love the "test for testoterone" bit. I am with PETA on this one.

DivaJood said...

POP and Karena, that's hilarious, recharging the pigeon. It's the cell phones that need recharging. I forgot to mention the "performance art" aspect of it. I'm not voicing an opinion, other than some people might have a tiny bit too much time on their hands - cell phones for pigeons? Oh, my, god.

Helen Wheels said...

PETA is a bit too militant but I'm still glad they are around. Weird story, indeed. I honestly think the pigeons would be fine, but it is an odd thing to be spending all that time & technology on... don't scientists have other ways of measuring these same things? Why make the birds do the work?

DivaJood said...

Helen, it falls into a bizarre category. On the other hand, they can also carry little tiny spy cameras; and if they could be trained to make calls on the cell phones, look out.

"Hello? Who's calling?"

"I'm a pigeon. I've been watching you type, and I saw that ACLU Bumper Sticker on your car."

"What? How did you get my number?"

"I'm a pigeon. I work for the NSA. We have everybody's number."

"Pigeons can't talk!"

"We're part of an extensive research project, so some of us can talk."

"Well, how did you dial? You have feathers!"

"You think my beak is only good for picking up trash. No, I can dial a number with it too. Explain yourself, you dissenter, you."

karena said...

Diva, That comment is hilarious and I suggest you start posting a little political satire on your blog because you are very good!

DivaJood said...

Karena, thank you. The thought of it makes me nervous and my heart go pitter pat. Of course, that's why I've started taking Improv Comedy Classes, and maybe I'll try. But so many others are so damn good!

sumo said...

They'll look very stylish to their other bird buddies. It will cause jealousy and then the next thing you know...we'll be embroiled in pigeon wars of the third kind. The Pigeons of Navarone...For Whom The Pigeon Tolls...The Four Pigeons of the Apocalypse...

DivaJood said...

Sumo, that's too funny. My favorite is For Whom The Pigeon Tolls - followed by the sequel: The Old Pigeon and The Sea.

oldwhitelady said...

They say the little packs are to monitor "pollution". Hmpf. I wonder.

DivaJood said...

OWL, I really think the NSA is on to something.

Unless they are designer backpacks - I mean, UC Irvine IS in Orange County.