Strange But True? Strange But False? Can you Barcode Scan a Zebra?

The Story Behind Strange But True or Strange But False

When I was in Middle School in Wayne, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia), my Dad used to drop me off at school on his way to work.  At the time he drove a yellow Camaro with a racing stripe which I thought was beyond cool, but looking back it seems that it should have been a sure sign of the Apocalypse.  My Dad, after all, is from Connecticut and is so conservative in his preppy dressing style that my Mom had to buy his neckties at thrift shops in the 60s because he refused to wear the wider tie styles popular back then.  To this day all of his casual belts have those little embroidered signal flags, lobsters, sailboats or whales.  His idea of risque is a rep tie with three different stripe colors instead of two.  You get the point, preppy navy blue suit wearing Dad, yellow Camaro with racing stripes.  A match made in Dante’s 6th Circle of Hell (Fashion Heresy).

Because my Dad and I thought we were pretty hip in our sports car, on the way to school we would listen to WMMR, a popular rock station out of Philadelphia.  My Dad is strictly a classical music person, so the fact that he would agree to listen to the dj’s inane drivel and bad music put him squarely in the Best Dad category.  Anyway, WMMR had a morning segment called Strange But True or Strange But False where you had to guess if the weird news item was true or false.  My Dad and I had a lot of fun guessing and placing bets (mostly involving cookies) on whether the item was true or not.  I’m resurrecting this tradition with our eco-friendly version.  If you have kids of your own that are old enough to understand, you might enjoy playing this game with them.

The Question:

Scientists are using barcode scanners to track zebras in the wild.  The barcode scanners read their unique stripes and help the scientists identify individual zebras.  Strange but true or strange but false?

The Answer:

Strange but true, for the most part.  Discovery News reports, “[a] team of computer scientists and biologists have developed a barcode-like scanning system called Stripespotter that automatically identifies individual zebras from a single photograph. The system is more accurate than other image-recognition programs and could be used on additional animals with stripes, such as tigers and giraffes.”  So, you can’t take your grocery store barcode scanner and walk up to a zebra and scan it, but you can use the Stripespotter scanner to scan a digital photo of the zebra and identify it that way.  There are plans to use this technology on tigers and giraffes as well.  Cool.

*Photo courtesy of Discovery News

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