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Bizzare & Odd

Parrot mimicking fire alarm fools firefighters

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Maurice van Bruggen

Parrots are very good at impersonating sounds.

A parrot with the uncanny ability to replicate the sound of a fire alarm prompted an emergency call-out recently.

Named Jazz, the 17-year-old African grey parrot quickly picked up the sound of his owner Steve Dockerty’s smoke alarm after it kept going off due to a technical fault.

So convincing was the impression in fact that it ended up fooling the alarm operator over the phone.

“Every time the alarm goes off I get a call from the wardens and sometimes it goes off for no good reason,” said Steve. “This time they asked me if everything was ok and I said it was but they could hear Jazz in the background and called the fire service as a precaution.”

When firefighters arrived at the house they swept the premises for signs of a fire. It wasn’t until the cheeky parrot did its impression again that they realized what had happened.

“He’s a cheeky sod and likes to imitate things,” said Steve. “He imitated the smoke alarm so well that they called the fire brigade. All the while, Jazz was sitting in his cage laughing his socks offs.”

Source: BBC News


Bizzare & Odd

Cyborg Plants Can Move Themselves Around Autonomously

First we find out that someone has created a computer that acts like HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Then we hear of a robot on the International Space Station who gets moody like Marvin in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.” Now, researchers at MIT have developed a cyborg plant that can move around on its own like the monster plants in “Seedpeople.” Is it time to ban inventors from Netflix? Is it too late?

“Elowan is an attempt to demonstrate what augmentation of nature could mean. Elowan’s robotic base is a new symbiotic association with a plant. The agency of movement rests with the plant based on its own bio-electrochemical signals, the language interfaced here with the artificial world.”

“Elowan” – in case you haven’t figured it out yet – is the ready-for-a-movie name of the plant-robot cyborg developed at the MIT Media Lab under the direction of Harpreet Sareen, the Assistant Professor of Media and Interaction Design at Parsons School of Design in New York and Director of the Synthetic Ecosystems Lab that focuses on biological futures and their implications in interaction design. Harpreet describes his work on his web site as sitting “at the intersection of Material Science, Biology and Electronics.” In other words, he’s a mad scientist.

“As humans, we rely on technological augmentations to tune our fitness to the environment. However, the acceleration of evolution through technology needs to move from a human centric to a holistic nature-centric view. I created Elowan as an attempt to provoke thought as to what augmented plants would mean.”

As you can see in his video (and possible movie trailer), Elowan is a plant connected via silver electrodes and wires to a pot on wheels with an electric motor driven by a chip that interprets signals from the plant. Previous studies have identified and differentiated the various signals for water, humidity, temperature, oh-no-here-comes-that-leaf-eating-cat, etc., and isolated just the photosynthetic light-seeking response. How do they know it’s the right one? They put Elowan plant between two lamps, flicked them on-and-off and the cyborg plant moved itself to the one that was on.

It’s not complicated or frightening (yet) or even a good plot for a horror movie, but it’s a start. As the scientists point out in the MIT press release:

“Instead of building completely discrete systems, the new paradigm points toward using the capabilities that exist in plants (and nature at large) and creating hybrids with our digital world.”

Capabilities like going to the sink and turning on the water faucet? Sending a signal to a robot that its fruit is ready for picking? Prodding Seymour to let him know Elowan/Audrey III is ready for some more blood or meat?

Audrey II: Feed me!
Seymour: Does it have to be human?
Audrey II: Feed me!
Seymour: Does it have to be mine?
Audrey II: Feeeed me!
Seymour: Where am I supposed to get it?
Audrey II: [singing] Feed me, Seymour / Feed me all night long – That’s right, boy! – You can do it! Feed me, Seymour / Feed me all night long / Ha ha ha ha ha! / Cause if you feed me, Seymour / I can grow up big and strong.
“Little Shop of Horrors”

Never happen? MIT’s press release closes with the brag/warning:

“Elowan, the robot plant hybrid, is one in a series of such of plant-electronic hybrid experiments.”

Feed me, Harpreet.


Mysterious Universe

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Bizzare & Odd

Documentary Reveals Small Town “UFO Capital of the World”

Filmmaker Mark Borchardt visits a local UFO hotspot to document the curious characters who have been experiencing strange things in the area for decades.

Remember Mark Borchardt, the Milwaukee filmmaker whose struggle to produce a short horror film was the subject of the award-winning documentary American Movie? Mark is back, this time with a documentary about a UFO festival that’s been happening here in the backyard of Cult of Weird HQ for decades.

2018 marked the 30th anniversary of UFO Daze. The gathering began in the 1980s after residents of the unincorporated community of Dundee, Wisconsin decided they should get together to discuss the bizarre phenomena they had been experiencing in the area.

Bill Benson, owner of Benson’s Hide-A-Way on the shore of Long Lake, has been keeping track of alien encounters in the area since crop circles appeared on a neighbor’s farm in 1947 when he was a child. Since then, he has personally witnessed his own share of unexplained activity over Long Lake and around nearby Dundee Mountain. He hosts the annual gathering, and has converted his tavern into a shrine to little green men.

According to Benson, Dundee is the “UFO capital of the world.”

UFO Bob from the film The Dundee Project
Robert “UFO Bob” Keuhn

Borchardt’s film The Dundee Project is the result of years of filming at UFO Daze, from 2001 through 2007 or 2008. The film includes interviews with some of the area’s most fascinating characters.

Robert “UFO BOB” Keuhn, for example, co-founded UFO Daze with Benson in 1988. He once told a local news outlet that he maintained ongoing telepathic communications with an alien named Ezeata from the Plaidian star system. “Ezeata visits Long Lake occasionally,” he said, “even though the journey takes about 500 light years.”

The Dundee Project by Mark Borchardt on DVD

The Dundee Project made the film festival rounds last year, and is now available to order on DVD and digital download from the Found Footage Festival website right here.

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Bizzare & Odd

Spanish writer builds his own 60ft ‘spaceship’

Image Credit: YouTube / Lucio Ballesteros
The vessel won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

87-year-old Lucio Ballesteros hopes that mankind will one day use the vessel to travel to an alien planet.

As far as unusual hobbies go, this one just about takes the cake.

Built on a budget of 100,000 euros, this impressive saucer-shaped spacecraft is constructed from aluminum and methacrylate and sits in its own custom parking space outside Ballesteros’ house.

The vessel does not have any means of propulsion, however the 87-year-old hopes that mankind will have one day evolved enough – both psychically and spiritually – to fly it to the stars.

Its destination will be ’10/7′ – a fictional alien world from a series of books he has written.

The peculiar nature of his creation has captured the imagination of Xoel Mendez – a documentary filmmaker who is in the process of putting together a film about Ballesteros and his work.

News footage showing the ship, as well as its rather sparse interior, can be viewed below.

Source: Huffington Post

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