The Magic Flute of Rat Mind Control Aims to Mix Magic and Science

Well this is unusual. Behold the Magic Flute of Rat Mind Control, and as a project it is all about altering the response to the instrument, rather than being about hacking the musical instrument itself. It’s [Kurt White]’s entry to the Musical Instrument Challenge portion of The Hackaday Prize, and it’s as intriguing as it is different.

The Raspberry-Pi controlled, IoT Skinner box for rats, named Nicodemus.

[Kurt] has created a portable, internet-connected, automated food dispenser with a live streaming video feed and the ability to play recorded sounds. That device (named Nicodemus) is used as a Skinner Box to train rats — anywhere rats may be found — using operant conditioning to make them expect food when they hear a few bars of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man played on a small recorder (which is a type of flute.)

In short, the flute would allow one to summon hordes of rats as if by magic, because they have been trained by Nicodemus to associate Iron Man with food.

Many of the system’s elements are informed by the results of research into sound preference in rats, as well as their ability to discriminate between different melodies, so long as the right frequencies are present. The summoning part is all about science, but what about how to protect oneself from the hordes of hungry rodents who arrive with sharp teeth and high expectations of being fed? According to [Kurt], that’s where the magic comes in. He seems very certain that a ritual to convert a wooden recorder into a magic flute is all the protection one would need.

Embedded below is something I’m comfortable calling the strangest use case video we’ve ever seen. Well, we think it’s a dramatized use case. Perhaps it’s more correctly a mood piece or motivational assist. Outsider Art? You decide.

16 thoughts on “The Magic Flute of Rat Mind Control Aims to Mix Magic and Science

  1. WTF Did I just watch? A recorder isn’t a kind of flute. It’s more like the top half of a clarinet!

    – Reads Wikipedia –

    Oh. Ok then. I guess there is nothing strange here at all. Carry on.

    1. A recorderis indeed a flute however the repetitive tune in this video is not a part of the Magic Flute Mozart opera from 1791, regardless of it featuring numerous small soloist flute pieces easily playable on a simple flute like this. I would also have made the whole video more enjoyable.

  2. City people are really twisted if they encourage each other to do stuff like this. Yeah, performance art can draw attention and thus serve a purpose if the message is meaningful, but what is supposed to be conveyed by this except creepiness? This really isn’t something that would look good on a resume.

    1. I love the scene that shows in the preview. The woman in the background seems entirely unsruprised and uninterested to see the rat-headed, shirtless guy playing a recorder in the subway tunnel. These are people who have gotten used to and learned to tune out EVERYTHING!

      I think that I might take it as a challenge to do something strange enough to get noticed in a place like that. Might as well wake a few people up!

      No, I wouldn’t put it on a resume but then I’m not going to put the dump I took this morning on a resume either. Why does everything have to be professional and all about a career for some people? Geesh, live a little Nope!

  3. Oh, I just had an eeeeevil thought: as a rat’s hearing range is well above ours, you could create a signal for feeding time with an ultrasonic transducer. At a future date, you could use a tiny portable transmitter to broadcast a signal that humans can’t hear ANYWHERE. YOU. WANT. :wickedgrin:

  4. And in other news…. For the fifth time this week, the remains of a subway busker were found. All appear to bear the scars of being gnawed on by thousands of rats, and curiously, all seem to have been flute or recorder players……..

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