1156: Conditioning

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'Why are you standing in the yard wearing a papal hat and a robe covered in seeds?' 'Well, the Pope is visiting our town next month ...'
Title text: 'Why are you standing in the yard wearing a papal hat and a robe covered in seeds?' 'Well, the Pope is visiting our town next month ...'


Herein, the author devises a method of addressing the issue of drivers who turn up their music to irritating levels which usually results in a lot of bass coming from the car — the low frequencies being the ones that most easily penetrate the car and travel farther, thus being more audible to those around the car.

As the title suggests, the idea is to condition animals to respond to a thumping bass. The machine is described as working as follows: every few hours, the bass would turn on, and the box would dispense food behind an opening designed to look like an open car window. Over time, local wildlife would flock to the box to get the food from inside, and would become trained that the sound of a subwoofer means that they can get food by flying through a car window.. Eventually, the animals would respond to any low music, including that played by cars.

The end result would be that the local wildlife would approach, and presumably attempt to enter, any car that has that same thumping bass. Drivers, in turn, would cease to turn up their music in order to prevent the groups of animals from chasing after their cars, thus solving the problem of annoyingly loud bass. This behavior modification can itself be seen as a somewhat different form of conditioning.

The title text is a dialogue about using a similar method of conditioning to send animals after a visiting Pope. Why someone would want that to happen is left to the reader's imagination, although papal visitations usually disrupt the local communities with onerous traffic and special and ostentatious ceremonies, and do attract huge crowds of dignitaries, celebrities, the faithful, the curious, and attending purveyors of foodstuffs and trinkets. Not to mention the impact to the local AirBnB market. Or it could just be Black Hat, who would not need any particular reason for this sort of behavior, and might choose the Pope because of his highly recognizable outfit.

Although these plan may seem far-fetched, a similar scheme was seriously proposed in the United Kingdom during World War I to condition seagulls to associate a submarine's periscope with food, which would give away the locations of enemy submarines as the gulls flocked to their periscopes being raised.

There is also a story about a university student using such conditioning to get birds to disrupt a football game using a strategy similar to the one for the pope in the title text. The student went to the football field every day during summer break dressed as a referee, spreading seeds and blowing his whistle. During the first game at the next semester, the first whistle of the referee summoned a large number of birds looking for the usual seeds, preventing the game from proceeding. According to Snopes, there is no evidence of this ever actually taking place, but it's nearly impossible to disprove.


Every few hours, subwoofer plays throbbing bass for 10 seconds... [With arrow pointing to subwoofer.]
...then bread crumbs are dispensed into box [With arrow pointing to bread feeder machine.]
Opening [With arrow pointing to feeder opening shaped like a driver side car window.]
Local wildlife [With arrows pointing to birds and a squirrel.]
Protip: Leave this device in your yard for a week, then watch as the problem of loud music from passing cars solves itself.

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... the main problem with this idea is that the probability of any particular driver to driver repeately around that place is not so high. Of course, if similarly conditioned animals would be on multiple places ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 08:48, 4 January 2013 (UTC)

Depending on the animal (species), and assuming a stable or growing "local wildlife" population, the conditioned ones may 1) eventually fan out (including migration) and teach other individuals or 2) breed, teach their offspring, and the offspring will fan out. Eventually -- we can only hope -- the average density EVERYWHERE per square mile of individuals would be above a given threshold to be effective 24/7. Problem solved! --BigMal27 / 12:19, 4 January 2013 (UTC)

Up the ante in rural areas by using not crumbs, but bacon, or deer musk ... nah, that would be evil. 13:18, 4 January 2013 (UTC)

If anything this would just get drivers to close their windows and not solve the problem because loud bass still penetrates car windows. -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

If I were a bass-loving driver, I still wouldn't want birds and squirrels (et cetera) coming at my car! Better to kill the "music" or avoid the area. But it appears to be a hollow victory due to the comment below. --BigMal27 / 20:50, 4 January 2013 (UTC)

The general problem I see: once drivers get educated, animal conditioning has to be kept up, or animals will forget about basses, which would be the exact same nuisance it is trying to address. Otherwise, wildlive would forget to associate basses with food, and thus fail to educate drivers. Kind of a Volterra cycle. Edit: the paragraph before is not mine, someone forgot to sign. 18:59, 4 January 2013 (UTC) madd

Someone suggested attracting wolves and bears. That could stop the morons learning. Or as the Americans say: Thayer'll layern ya. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 19:11, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

As an American, layering what, now? 15:35, 24 November 2016 (UTC)

Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but wouldn't attracting lots of animals towards cars with thumping bass lead to a lot more road kill? Which wouldn't really be a desired side-effect of the machine... 18:59, 6 January 2013 (UTC)

Of course the conditioning has to be kept up! That's why you run the machine while you are AT WORK! --Schmammel

The side effect of "Road Kill" would also contribute to the desired response... most dirvers who listen to excessive base (music) tend to also not want to hit or splatter an animal across their vehicle (don't see a lot of Pickup Trucks with gun racks thumping out the base) MIRanger (talk) MIRanger

Eh, doubt any drivers would make the connection with their music without, say, explanatory signage ("birds here attack loud cars!")... They'd probably just think the local wildlife went after cars in general. 00:03, 3 February 2013 (UTC)mr

This: http://www.snopes.com/college/pranks/birdseed.asp

But the conditioning machine will become annoying to the neighbors. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Someone should actually try this. I could see it working. 21:47, 11 October 2018 (UTC)

I once heard a story of dubious authenticity, but cute nonetheless. A man spent the summer walking back and forth across the deserted football field of a rival college, blowing a whistle and tossing birdseed. Fun times for the opening game of the season. Cosumel (talk) 04:31, 26 May 2020 (UTC)

Would the title text constitute an assault on the Pope, which is an excommunicable offense in Catholicism? I doubt Black Hat is a Catholic, but if he is, he might be excommunicated latae sententiae. 01:34, 15 January 2024 (UTC)

that is, if someone could pin the crime on him. Black Hat has never faced consequences for his actions before, so one would think that he hides his tracks pretty well. 42.book.addict (talk) 01:04, 2 March 2024 (UTC)