A Moment of Science

Brainy Scarecrow

Think of your favorite science related movie. Is it "Frankenstein," "Terminator," or maybe even "Weird Science?" How about "The Wizard of Oz?"

Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz

Photo: garlandcannon

This scarecrow is pretty darn smart, or, from a bird's eye view, just plain scary.

Think of your favorite science related movie. Is it “Frankenstein,” “Terminator,” or maybe even “Weird Science?” How about “The Wizard of Oz?”

It may seem like an odd choice, but think about it. There’s the violent tornado, which touches on atmospheric science, Dorothy’s dream, which speaks to sleep and dream research, and the central predicament of the Scarecrow’s brain. How, the story forces us to ask, can the Scarecrow be so clever without a brain?

Of course, real scarecrows aren’t very clever. In fact, they’re not even very good at doing the one job they’re meant for: scaring away crows and other birds that damage crops.

Perhaps if real scarecrows had brains, they’d be more effective. At least that’s the idea behind a “smart scarecrow” prototype created by students at the University of South Florida to protect commercial fish farms from birds. Their scarecrow, called Erebus, is equipped with sensors to detect motion and process images. Its computerized brain can distinguish between predatory birds and farmers. When it senses birds intent on poaching some fish, Erebus can emit a piercing gunshot sound or spray the birds with water. The robotic scarecrow can also send intruder reports by email and mobile phone to the farmer.

This scarecrow is pretty darn smart, or, from a bird’s eye view, just plain scary.

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