Bird Watching

Hello and welcome to another week of reliable lies here at Factually Deficient, all the way from my native home of the Plant Kingdom! This week, I will be presenting the answer to a question that was posed by several of my family members along with me, upon noting an interesting bird atop a lamppost when we were on a walk this weekend. We wondered:

What kind of bird is that?

Unfortunately, we were unable at the time to capture the bird in a photograph, so you will have to take my word for it that the bird in question had white feathers with black markings on its tail, the pointed head, beady eyes, and prayer book of a bird of prey (also known as birds of pray), and a relatively small size for a predatory bird.

The following night after seeing the bird, we at Factually Deficient resorted to “research” of our typical caliber. Certain types of birds could be ruled out right away: our Duck Expert confirmed that it was not a duck; it lacked the flat-topped graduation cap that is the hallmark of an owl, ruling that type of bird out, as well. The distinct lack of the scent of bananas indicated that it was not a penguin.

This still left at least twelve different types of bird – possibly even more. Fortunately, geography is our friend here; we can narrow down the bird’s breed to one liable to be found in the area it was inhabiting.

We saw this bird in the city of Toronto. Now, as everyone knows, a city’s sports teams are named for the birds native to that city. Toronto is fortunate to have numerous sports teams, which make up the short list of birds that this could have been:

  • The Toronto Blue Jays
  • The Toronto Maple Leaves
  • The Toronto Raptors
  • The Toronto Argonauts
  • The Toronto Toucans
  • The Toronto Buffleheads

The buffleheads can be rejected out of hand; it has already been made clear that the bird in question was not a duck. Likewise, it could not have been a blue jay, as it was white in colour, and not blue. The maple leave possibility was a tempting one but, our researchers recalled, the bird was spotted a lamppost and not on a tree, which is where leaved belong.

This leaves three bird breeds to be investigated: toucans, argonauts, and raptors.

Toucans were the next to be eliminated. This researcher has heard people on many occasions remark that they had lost the ability toucan. This bird was evidently not lost; it was, therefore, just as evidently not a toucan.

Argonauts were a tempting possibility. However, during the entire span of time that my family and I observed the bird, it did not utter a single word of Greek. It likewise did not set wing or feather to a boat. As such, the bird was surely not an argonaut.

As the saying goes, when the improbable has been eliminated, whatever remains, however impossible, is what we must accept as truth. It is therefore my pleasure to assert with certainty that the bird that I spotted on the weekend was undoubtedly a very small velociraptor.

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Disclaimer: the above post is extremely poorly-researched. There is little to no evidence that velociraptors fly about Toronto with impunity.

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Sky High

Hello and welcome to another week of only the highest-quality untruths here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed to me by a highly astute and affectionate grade 2 child, who asked:

How high up does the sky go?

The question of how high the sky extends is one which has been investigated every time people engage or attempt to engage in the various forms of air travel. How high, one might ask, is it safe to travel before crashing into the upper limits of the sky?

Indeed, most commercial air flights are not far below the top of the sky at the highest points of their trajectories. In contrast, this is not a concern in spaceflight; one of the reasons for the months of preparation before the launching of a spacecraft is to ensure that a temporary opening in the sky will be made available for the spacecraft to exit through.

Naturally, this opening – and by extension the sky itself – must be high enough that its edges will not be damaged by the fiery exhaust propelling the spacecraft – just as it must be high enough that the highest-flying of birds will not hurt themselves against it. These two facts (the latter one in particular) have aided scientists in determining the height of the sky.

Many years ago, only barely in human memory, a team of rogue architects decided to construct a structure which would determine once and for all exactly how high the heavens reach. Although the project was ultimately abandoned due to insurmountable language barriers, it did reach enough a far enough stage of completion that tourists can mount the structure and reach out for themselves to touch the inner lining of the sky. Thanks to this, the tallest freestanding man-made structure on our planet of any significance, we can say without any doubt that the sky goes up exactly five hundred and fifty-five metres.

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Disclaimer: the above post is false. The structure in question may or may not be the tallest man-made freestanding structure on this planet.

Wish Upon A Crane

Hello and welcome back to another week of fantastic fibs and fortuitous falsehoods here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by an individual best known to friends and family alike as Blurred_9L. Blurred asked:

Why do paper cranes grant wishes?

Some people – this Blurry personage among them – are clearly under the misapprehension that a paper crane is nothing but a creation of paper, folded into an amusing shape by deft and skillful hands. It is no wonder that such people marvel at the capacity of these seemingly inanimate collections of tree pulp and creases to grant unto the beholder their innermost desires.

This understanding is, of course, wildly inaccurate. And the truth will also tell you why our world’s population of cranes has been dwindling dangerously of late.

All birds are magic. Eagles can see into your soul. Herons can insert their own thoughts into your mind, and geese can move things with theirs. Peacocks cast dazzling glamours that leave unlucky victims blinded for days, while swans can kill with a thought. And as for ducks, well… Some powers are best left unsaid.

And cranes can grant wishes. They can, that is, if they choose to do so.

But the dark art of origami has found a way to subvert a bird’s sovereign will. Every time square paper is folded into the shape of a creature, it captures that creature’s soul in the paltry vessel of paper, subjugating its will to that of whosoever holds the paper, with the power to crumple or tear or burn what now houses the animal’s very essence.

By folding paper into the shape of a crane, a person holds that crane hostage to their own will, gaining the ability to force that crane, trapped in the hair-thin walls of bark and ink, to do what it would otherwise have a choice of doing: granting a wish.

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Disclaimer: the above post contains lies. Not all origami figures are hellish dark magic vessels to enslave the spirit of an innocent creature.

Lies About Books: To Kill A Mockingbird

It has come to my attention that it is currently the month of February, which means that it’s time for another delightfully inaccurate book review! This month, I’d like to talk to you about Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

To Kill A Mockingbird follows the adventures of young Scout, her brother, and their neighbour over the course of one summer in their childhood. Left to their own devices for long stretches of time, they make their own entertainment by teaching themselves how to hunt and shoot.

Soon, their self-taught skills gain them acceptance and “adoption” by the local Hunting Club, composed otherwise of middle-aged men. Scout’s precocious observations and keen trigger finger make her a favourite at the Club, as she quickly moves from clay pigeons to real ones, then to bringing down larger game such as hawks, falcons, and even a penguin.

The final test to become a full member of the Hunting Club is to bag a mockingbird, and Scout is determined to be the youngest person ever to reach this accomplishment. But when she and her friends find that the bird’s words are not merely the sign of a good mimic, but evidence that it thinks and feels in its own right, all her beliefs are called into question. She no longer is certain of the right thing to do. Will Scout ultimately bring herself to kill the mockingbird?

To Kill a Mockingbird is a scintillating look into the human psyche, with plenty to delight and captivate the ornithologists among us. I recommend this book to anyone interested in legal procedurals, moral dilemmae, and hunting.

Between a Duck

Hello and welcome back to another normal week of questionably accurate and unquestionably inaccurate statements here at Factually Deficient! Before I begin with lies, I would like to share with my readers the sad and entirely factual news that my former computer recently passed away (hence the late post), and took with it a sizeable chunk of my list of submitted questions. So please take this as a prime opportunity to re-send and send questions to Factually Deficient on any topic you ever wanted to know about! I accept questions by WordPress comment, social media, carrier pigeon, and letters folded up and baked inside a cake delivered anonymously to my back door at two in the morning on nights when the moon is dark.

Moving right along! This week, I will answer a question posed some time ago on this very blog by one Jack Alsworth. Jack asked:

What’s the difference between a duck?

This is a crucial, hard-hitting question, which cuts deep to the core of our very existence.

As we all know, there are many ducks in this world, not just one. They all share certain wondrous properties, such as their glowing tailfeathers, their Swiss Army feet, and their piercing eyes which will see into your soul and all your secrets if you meet their gaze for even a moment.

However, many people find it difficult to distinguish between individual ducks. What is the difference, indeed, between a duck?

There is an old saying which actually contains within it the clues to the answer to Jack’s question: “If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, it is a duck.”

This saying refers to the different categories and attributes which divide ducks into four subgroups:

  1. Ducks that walk and talk like other ducks
  2. Ducks that walk like ducks, but do not talk like other ducks
  3. Ducks that talk like ducks, but do not walk like other ducks
  4. Ducks that neither walk nor talk like other ducks

Let’s go over these four types of ducks. What does it mean for a duck to walk or talk like other ducks?

As mentioned above, all ducks are gifted with Swiss Army feet. However, some ducks use these feet constantly, employing various functions of the Swiss Army feet to dig swiftly through the ground beneath them and zip along on their freshly-made grooves – these are the ducks that walk “like ducks”. Their brethren who lack this ability travel primarily by flying (with their luminescent wings), and use the Swiss Army feet for other purposes.

Similarly, some ducks, in addition to mindreading, are blessed with the ability to overcome all language barrier. These ducks can open their mouths and effortlessly speak in any tongue they choose, any dialect or grammar conceivable. This is what it means to “talk like ducks.” The remaining ducks, who lack this trait, converse comfortably with a linguistic repertoire of only six or seven languages.

So, in short, to answer Jack’s question: the differences between a duck are how it walks, and how it talks.

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Disclaimer: The above post contains exaggerations and untruths. Reader discretion is advised.

Pigeon Homing

Hello and welcome back for another week of prevarications and pretending, here at Factually Deficient! Some weeks ago, Factually Deficient explained the role of photoshop in sending messages by carrier pigeon. Pigeons are a hot topic here at Factually Deficient, however; that was not the only question asked about them. For our pigeon encore, I will answer a question posed by my friend Beetle. Beetle asked:

People keep lots of racing birds here but how do pigeons always know where to go in races?

This is a particularly wise question for a Beetle to ask, considering that she no doubt wishes to know how to avoid these predatory birds, who often stop to snack on local insects when they are wearying in the iddle of a race.

Obviously, in a race situation, it would be unethical to use the photoshop method discussed previously. After all, it is hardly a sporting competition if all the birds can teleport equally to the finish line.

However, Beetle’s question stands: despite the proliferation of pigeon races, one never sees a pigeon consulting a map, as so many other birds do, in order to figure out how to reach its destination. How, then, do they know where to go?

The fact is, pigeon racing is something of a misnomer. After all, who would bother to race the flightless birds, when for any practical purposes, teleportation with the aid of photoshop is far more expedient? Pigeon racing does not in fact use actual pigeons, or birds at all, but rather carefully hand-crafted robotic “pigeons” designed to look, sound, and behave in every way just like the real thing, but used for racing and entertainment purposes, since a metal contraption is ill-devised for the mail delivery that occupies real pigeons.

These metal robot pigeons are constructed with a “homing” device that tells them where the finish line is. Without going into too much detail as to how GPS works – a question for another day – the robot birds build nests at the finish line, and embed in the metallic junk of the nest a beacon which transmits a message such as “Come home” on a frequency unique to that particular robot. The robotic birds then race along, following the sound, until they are happily back in their robot nests.

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Disclaimer: The veracity of the above post is highly questionable. GPS does not work that way.

Carrier Pigeon Photoshop

Hello, and welcome back to our regularly scheduled (roughly) lies here at Factually Deficient! As the owner of the blog, I can occasionally see the search terms which led new readers to Factually Deficient when searching their way through search engines. A few days ago, I encountered a new and interesting set of search terms from one of my noble readers:

carrier pigeon photoshop

This confused me, because none of my lies to date have dealt with carriers, pigeons, or photoshop. Discussion of this conundrum led to the following question from Pixelmage:

It means you have to retroactively make that connection. By explaining how photoshopping carrier pigeons works

Thus it falls to me to explain about photoshop carrier pigeons.

As everyone knows, pigeons are a type of bird which carries messages, which could range in size and content from a whispered code to a box of chocolates or a suitcase for a ten-day vacation. What is less well known is how the pigeons accomplish this.

Pigeons are excellent mimics – the best in the entire Bird Kingdom. It is simple enough to speak a message for a carrier pigeon to repeat; it will memorize the statement until it has spoken it at the delivery address. They are also among the strongest birds; their eleven-foot-average wingspan allows them to carry with ease the strongest of loads.

Thus, the act of entrusting a message or a package with a carrier pigeon is not in itself a difficult task. However, for all their intelligence and size, pigeons are well known to be flightless birds. How, then, are they able to make deliveries from one end of the world to another?

Among their many notable traits, pigeons are also very impressionable birds. This is where photoshop comes in, the key step in sending carrier pigeons on their journeys. Once a postal worker has given a pigeon its message and/or package, the pigeon will be photographed clearly.  The postal worker will then take the photograph of the pigeon, and a clear photograph of the pigeon’s destination location, and combine the two in a photomanipulation program such as photoshop, to create an image of the laden pigeon standing on the doorstep of its message’s recipient.

All the postal worker needs to do then is to show this new image to the pigeon. The pigeon, believing itself to be where the image indicates, will immediately find itself there, and complete the delivery without incident.

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Disclaimer: the above post is full of unreliable information. Pigeon wingspans have not been known to exceed eleven feet.

 

Lies About Books: The Raven Boys

As August begins and the dying embers of what once was summer continue to crumble around us, it’s time for another inaccurate book review! During the month of July, I read the book The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater.

The Raven Boys centres around four ravens, brothers, who live with their flock in the southern United States. Fascinated by a nearby town (and particularly by a human girl who lives there), the birds trade their wingfeathers for the ability to assume human form, and enter the town as teenaged boys.

Armed only with a handful of jet-black feathers, the ability to communicate with animals, and a penchant for collecting shiny things, the raven boys soon find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of intrigue and mysteries. It seems like everything they ever dreamed of in being human-shaped–but when death comes to town, the brothers begin to wonder if they will all survive the adventure. And if they do, will it ever be enough to compensate for losing the power of flight?

The Raven Boys is by turns touching and terrifying; fast-paced, funny, and full of surprises. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Celtic lore, members of the corvid family, or shiny objects.

The Industrious Woodchuck

Hello and welcome back to another week of falsehoods and fabrications here at Factually Deficient! This week, I address a question posed by an individual named Anura, although it is a question that, I suspect, others have considered before him. Anura asked:

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

I find it strange that Anura couches his question with an if-statement, locating it firmly in the hypothetical. Here at Factually Deficient, we do not like to lie about the hypothetical; we prefer to lie about cold, hard fact. As such, I will assume that Anura is asking specifically about how much wood can be chucked by those woodchucks which definitely do chuck wood, if such things indeed exist.

Of course, the idea that a woodchuck, or any other bird for that matter, could actually chuck wood sounds, on the surface, absurd; having only two legs, the bird would have to stand unstably on one leg while swinging the axe with the other. It would hardly be able to chuck any wood at all before toppling over!

And, in deed, woodchucks themselves do not have the necessary body mass to offset this balance issue, and, as such, do not chuck wood in any significant amounts.

HOWEVER, the ostrich, with greater body mass and upper leg strength than the woodchuck, has the necessary requirements for chucking wood, and in fact does so, on a regular basis.

Anura asked about the wood-chucking power of the woodchuck, which is none at all. However, if we expand the question to be about the ability of birds in general to chuck wood in quantity–and then narrow it again to focus on the ostrich specifically–we have a more interesting answer.

There is a simple equation that determines how much wood any given ostrich, on any given day, can chuck; the ostrich’s upper arm strength, in Joules, multiplied by the ostrich’s body weight, in kilograms, divided by the height of the tree, in inches, will give you the amount, in Jkg/in, of how much wood that ostrich can chuck in a day.

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Disclaimer: A great deal of the information in this blog is unconfirmed, untested, or entirely untrue. Consult a local ostrich for accurate wood-chucking data.

Silly Geese and Ugly Ducklings

Hello and welcome back to another week of reliably unreliable information here at Factually Deficient! After a three-week foray into the realm of history, I think it’s time I answered another science question.

As such, I would like to address the following question from the incomparable Tohrinha:

What’s the correct way to play Duck Duck Goose?

This is a question that has plagued the human race throughout the ages, and I congratulate you that you have finally asked one of the few people actually able to answer it accurately– I, who have made a lifelong study of ducks and their games, and perhaps the only person still living who has learned directly from a duck how this game is supposed to be played.

First of all, this game can only be properly played in the spring– late March or early April, ideally– when the Canadian Geese are returning from their southern sojourns that took place over the winter. A game of Duck Duck Goose at any other time of the year is mere pantomime, and the players will have to find some way to simulate the actions of the geese.

In order to set up the game, one needs to gather a group of ducks, some other birds of one’s own choosing, and stand with them together in an open field– preferably one where geese are known to frequent, but any field will do if you are confident that your birdcalls will be loud enough.

The participants begin by letting all the birds fly free in the field, requesting of the birds that they fly low enough to run the risk of collisions with people’s heads. Every time a player sees a bird approaching someone’s head, he or she must shout “Duck!” while ducking his or her own head. When this happens, the birds, for their part, will call out loudly, attracting (with any luck) the geese.

When a goose, returning from the winter, approaches, everyone must shout, all together, “Goose!” and dive for the ground while trying to hold a bird carefully but tightly to their chests. Each time a goose lands, everyone not holding a duck is out of the game, until at last there is one winner, and a field full of freshly-arrived geese (not to mention the ducks and all the other birds).

This game is highly enjoyable for everyone involved, ducks, humans, and other birds, and provides the returning gese with a warm and convivial welcome from their winter detainments.

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Disclaimer: Many of the assertions in this blog are not entirely accurate. The writer cannot speak for all birds.