by Moritz Walter July 28, 2016
Physicist and squirrel gastronomer [Carsten Dannat] is trying to correlate two critical social economical factors: how many summer days do we have left, and when will we run out of nuts. His research project, the Squirrel Café, invites squirrels to grab some free nuts and collects interesting bits of customer data in return.
Animals are said to have a predictive sense for natural events, and [Carsten’s] experiment is about verifying this. The hypothesis [Carsten] is trying to prove with this setup is the following:
The amount of nuts taken by red squirrels from a squirrel feeder correlates with upcoming winter weather conditions significantly.
To prove this, [Carsten] regularly fills a wooden squirrel feeder with a known amount of nuts. A mercury switch on the feeder’s lid triggers the execution of a Python script on a Raspberry Pi. The script then polls a Dallas DS18B20 temperature sensor and takes a photograph through a Raspberry Pi camera module. All gathered data is automatically compiled into a tweet and also sent to ThingSpeak for further processing.
The setup works well, providing squirrels with peanuts and [Carsten] with precious data. The video below suggests that the little fellows tend to take one nut at a time, so the mercury switch effectively counts individual nuts. When refilling, [Carsten] checks how many nuts have actually been taken from the station, which allows him to track the nut consumption more accurately.
Yet, for some mysterious reason, the local squirrel population recently decided to boycott the café entirely. For two weeks now, not a single guest has shown up. The outside temperature was around 35° C (95° F) for these days, so regarding the hypothesis, the appetite loss could already be an indicator for a certain weather dependency of the squirrels’ nut consumption. There are certainly some more factors to consider, like the overall food supply, instinctive behavior, and software bugs, but we’re already curious if we will see more squirrels when the temperature drops again. What do our readers think, can squirrels really predict the weather?
Enjoy the video below, which shows the café’s furry guests before they took summer vacation:
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