Wednesday, 13 June 2012


A great technical achievement for Burton and Young Keith. With a combination of pure geekiness and a bit of technical know-how, they've produced the first laser zebra scanning tunnel. Not the barcode labels produced by Zebra the printers - proper zebras. Stripy horses.

The theory is that, like human fingerprints and snowflakes, all zebra stripe patterns are unique. Therefore it is possible, given a laser or photo scanner, uniquely to identify all zebras.

Possibly unwisely, but on the grounds of keeping down the computing costs, they went for a laser scanner arrangement. Unfortunately this means they have to fit the zebras with sunglasses prior to pushing them through the scanner, which tends to slow the process down. Still, they've got the ability to capture the salient stats of every zebra they encounter. Now all they have to do is think of a use for it. Possibly as a self-scanning aid in a zebra supermarket, but we reckon that's a fairly limited demographic.

It's just worth noting that it doesn't work for penguins. Penguins are a lot harder to identify. I suspect this makes them better criminals than zebras, but that's a whole new piece of research.


  1. You can learn more about the unique zebra barcodes and how they use them to recognise other members of the herd by visiting Chester zoo. I haven't been for a while, but there used to be a board up by the zebra enclosure with details of each individual's stripe pattern so that you could tell which was which (in theory).

    TBH I always found that the animals were facing the wrong way or I was looking at the wrong bit - so maybe Burton's & young Keith's gadget would make it easier.

    By the way - have you seen the cartoon of mother zebra talking to son: "We can't afford to buy you the Chelsea strip, so you'll just have to support Newcastle like the rest of the family!"

    1. Judy, I'm shocked to hear that zebras have a "right" direction.

  2. I've often thought that it would be a real life skill to be able to recognise Zebra's and Penguins individually. Each species itself seem to be able to recognise each other, but humans don't have the same ability. To us, someone we don't know well is a stranger. Whereas Zebra's and Penguins can say, Hi to each Bill, Bob or Joan that they meet due to their uniqueness, we are blessed with a real inability to do that. We have to ask who they are?

    I often wish we had a custom of having a discreet tattoo on our forehads with our names on. How convenient would that be!! But, off course, we than have language and writing differences to overcome - oh, why bother.


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