« PREVIOUS ENTRY
The sonnetry of Gears of War: My latest Wired News gaming column
NEXT ENTRY »
The flip-book of your life
People love to joke about how big-city life makes people talk faster, walk faster, and generally stress out. But according to a study in this month’s issue of Current Biology, the urban environment also turbocharges birds. A couple of Dutch scientists recorded the song of the Great Tit — Parus major, pictured above — in both forest settings and city settings, then compared them. The result? As they note in their abstract:
Urban songs were shorter and sung faster than songs in forests, and often concerned atypical song types. Furthermore, we found consistently higher minimum frequencies in ten out of ten city-forest comparisons from London to Prague and from Amsterdam to Paris.
Their paper is behind a paywall, alas, but for free they put online a dozen audio samples of the bird songs — so you can hear the difference for yourself! It’s pretty cool. Go to the bottom of the page and listen in particular to the comparison of the songs recorded in downtown Paris versus the rural area of Fontainebleu; it’s precisely the same call, except pitchshifted higher and faster in Paris.
Evolutionary scientists have theorized for decades that the noisy environment of cities would alter birdcall, but this is some of the most impressive evidence yet assembled. It’s also metaphorically lovely. When I spill my coffee while fumbling to answer a mobile-phone call while racing for the subway next week, I can take comfort: Even the songbirds are racing to keep up.
(Thanks to Eurekalert for this one!)
I'm Clive Thompson, a writer on science, technology, and culture. This blog collects bits of offbeat research I'm running into, and musings thereon.
Currently, I'm a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. I also write for Fast Company and Wired magazine's web site, among other places. Email or AOL IM me (pomeranian99) to say hi or send in something strange!
May 20, 2011 » 02:28 PM
From Christopher Kennedy’s very droll book “Neitzsche’s Horse”.
July 28, 2010 » 07:35 AM
“Wr” - S
July 06, 2010 » 10:05 AM
My Xbox broke, and I was trying to Google some possible technical solutions, when I noticed that Google appears to be encouraging me to make a typo. I suppose it’s possible that Google’s algorithms know that typing “wont” instead of “won’t” would produce better results.
June 29, 2010 » 05:00 PM
On the other hand, when I tried the test for multitasking, I was pretty abysmal. I performed worse than people who identify themselves as heavy multitaskers, and those who identify as low multitaskers.
June 29, 2010 » 04:58 PM
I finally got around to trying out the interactive “test your distractability and multitasking” page at the New York Times, which they put up alongside their story earlier this month about how computer distractions are eroding our lives.
According to the test, I guess I have good focus — I’m not very distractable!
El Rey Del Art
Frankly, I'd Rather Not
The Shifted Librarian
Howard Sherman's Nuggets
Donut Rock City
The Antic Muse
Techdirt Wireless News
Corante Gaming blog
Corante Social Software blog
Arts and Letters Daily
Alan Reiter's Wireless Data Weblog
Viral Marketing Blog