December 10, 2008

Featherless Chickens

I recently learned that Bernard Vonnegut, brother of Kurt Vonnegut, spent a good portion of his life researching wind and chickens.

When tornadoes slid across the Midwestern United States, into farmhouses and communities, sometimes chickens would get sucked into the vortex, flung far from their original homes, and would walk around for the next few days naked. No feathers.

So the wind ripped the feathers out.

It caused a stir, and a few people were interested in the phenomena. One man even loaded a chicken into a cannon to test how fast it had to move through the air before it lost all its feathers. But it blew up. The chicken, not the cannon.

So Bernard wrote a paper. The paper raked in an Ig Nobel Prize, which is funny. It's funny because Ig Nobel Prizes go to people for their outstanding improbable work. You can look at their Web site here.

His paper was titled, "Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado Wind Speed."

While that was undoubtedly a major piece of research, Bernard was best known for discovering that silver iodide could be used for cloud seeding, the process of artificially stimulating rain. He never got an astroid named after him for his research, but people still talk about him sometimes.

He passed away, another victim of cancer, in 1997. But you can read about that at Wikipedia.

I'm interested in the new movie Doubt:
---+ Interview on Fresh Air
---+ Official trailer
+ Beard bird
+ Library architecture
+ Daniel Silliman, and some words on journalism.
+ Radical knitting

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Blogger Daniel Silliman said...

I think "you can look him up on Wikipedia" is the new "so it goes."

I was reading about the chickens the other day, though not in any connection to Vonnegut's brother, but I don't remember where.

December 11, 2008 at 1:37 PM 
Blogger JHitts said...

That Doubt interview with PSH on NPR is fascinating.

December 16, 2008 at 1:29 AM 

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