Episode 20 – Taking a Bite Out of Poaching

DISCLAIMER: In this episode of Technically Speaking, we will be devising new and ingenious ways to prevent poachers from illegally killing animals in Africa. If you are a poacher, and are illegally killing animals in Africa, you should probably stop doing that and you should probably not listen to this episode because we’re not going to say very nice things about you and the kind of people you hang around with. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!


This image is part of Robert Chew’s “Big Five”, a series of artwork mixing his love of animals and mecha into a fundraiser for anti-poaching efforts. Check it out!

On this episode of Technically Speaking, Joe and Jacob are joined by renowned Human Factors Psychologist Phil Jasper to talk about “the softer side” of engineering and technology – Human Factors! Fear not, young Techies… Phil’s area of study is deeply ingrained in the world of tech. It’s not exaggerating to say that every product which interacts with a human and requires an Engineer to design, likely also requires a Human Factors analyst to fine-tune and assist in the design. So with that in mind, even though Phil isn’t “technically” an Engineer, he’s certainly an honorary guest on our occasional “Who Wants To Be An Engineer” Segment!

After learning about Human Factors, Phil walks us through his current research project – The Bite Counter. The Bite Counter is a device that counts the number of “bites” you take (of food) in a given day (NOTE: NOT the number of “chews”. Yes, I was confused at first as well.). It does this through some incredible pattern recognition to distinguish the characteristic “wrist roll” humans tend to exhibit when they’re eating food. Don’t get it? Listen to Phil explain it, and we promise it will make sense. More importantly, Phil and his team have devised a way to use the Bite Counter to automate your diet! (So clearly this is right up out alley) Interested? Listen to Phil’s explanation and our mini-brainstorm on the topic, and see if you might be interested in helping out the study!

Finally we get to the poachers – This week’s brainstorm was inspired by listener Jake’s awesome email, letting us know about Robert Chew’s “Big Five” project and the art and philanthropy behind it (which graces this episode’s cover art). It got us thinking – how can we use technology to stop poaching in Africa? How suitable are UAV’s for this task? What about smart tagging? (And hey, while we’re at it, why do people poach in the first place?)

We want to hear what you think! Is it important to us as a society to stop poaching? (And if you agree, check out The Big Five and consider purchasing some art to support the International Anti-Poaching Foundation) Is there another space of solutions which we haven’t considered – chemical, perhaps? What about frickin laser beams!? Send us your ideas for this, and any other future brainstorm!

Let us know with an email, a comment on Facebook, a shout-out on Twitter, or a comment below! And if you liked the show and want to keep hearing more, be sure to leave us a review on iTunes!

Run Time: 1:10:00

Music: “Another One Bites the Dust” – Queen

Posted in Episodes
2 comments on “Episode 20 – Taking a Bite Out of Poaching
  1. Louis says:

    Enjoyed the episode, (though it could’ve been edited down a bit; I realize these things take time.) Thank you sincerely for doing them. I always learn something.

    Two comments: billiard balls out of ceramic? C’mon engineers, ceramic’s not really known for its shatter-resistance. ;]

    The quest for a durable man-made billiard ball led to the invention of several industrial plastics; from Celluloid to Bakelite to Phenolic resin, which they’re still made of (along with Polyester and Acrylic). Did you know that Bakelite was made from formaldehyde and sawdust [basically]? I didn’t. So, thanks for leading me down another rabbit-hole.

    Comment two: Interesting discussion on poaching. I liked the conclusions about prevention and education. Traditional Chinese medicine, plus other beliefs, coupled with status-symbol aquisition, seem to lay at the heart of things. (Not to mention poverty, and the sad chain of profiteering.)
    A scary development: some rhino horn is being doped with Viagra, making its effectiveness beyond psychological/placebo. [I only have one source for this, but the very notion… yikes] So, yeah, the underlying theme: man-made alternatives and education could save the day. And the animals.

    [Sorry for not mentioning the bite-counter watch; it felt like product-placement. Interesting, though. (wish weight-loss wasn’t a go-to realm for snake-oil) Guess someone could simply wear a handheld tally counter as a cheap analog version…bite. click.]

  2. Morris Keesan says:

    (I think the word you were searching for is “faddish”.)

    My questions about the Bite Counter involve which wrist it would get worn on. When I wore a wrist watch, I always wore it on my non-dominant arm, not the arm I mostly use for eating. And, like many people, I use both hands for eating — typically, while holding a fork or chopsticks in my dominant hand, I’ll reach for a beverage glass with the other hand. And when eating something which requires cutting with a knife, the fork stays in the non-dominant hand. And while your guest may think that drinking beer while using chopsticks would be a strange combination, millions of Japanese beer drinkers would disagree.

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