Python Counterstrike: Squirrel Ambush

Kurt Grandis, a soft-spoken software engineer from North Carolina, delivered a humorous and informative presentation at PyCon 2012. PyCon is the largest annual gathering for the community using and developing the open-source Python programming language. During the course of his presentation, Militarizing Your Backyard with Python: Computer Vision and the Squirrel Hordes, Kurt describes how participating in citizen science (ala the Backyard Bird Count) led him to use Python to tap into computer vision libraries and build an automated sentry water cannon capable of soaking bushy-tailed backyard bandits.

Related Resources:

  • Kurt mentions OpenCV in his presentation. What is it? The Wikipedia entry for OpenCV (or Open Source Computer Vision Library) states that it “is a library of programming functions mainly aimed at real time computer vision.”
  • He also talks about support vector machines (SVM) as a means of analyzing images so as to recognize and distinguish bird shapes from squirrel shapes.
  • Canny edge detection also comes into play.
  • NumPy (also mentioned in the presentation) is the fundamental package for scientific computing with Python.


Fresh Start: Quadrantids Provide Early Morning (Meteor) Shower

According to NASA, the Northern Hemisphere will experience a spectacular celestial treat in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, January 4th. Around 2AM (EST), the 2012 Quadrantids (a meteor shower) will dazzle die-hard astronomers. Plan to catch the event? If so, brew some coffee and stay awake for the show!

Image of a rare early Quadrantid, captured by a NASA meteor camera in 2010Here are a few suggested activities/resources to keep you alert while you wait: