Pre-Enlightenment scientific gewgaws

Yes, they're medieval; no, they're not instruments of torture (or dentistry). The... things at left are from Epact, "an electronic catalogue of medieval and renaissance scientific instruments from four European museums: the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence, the British Museum, London, and the Museum Boerhaave, Leiden." Since I don't often get to Leiden, it's nice to know I can look at all the gadgets and gizmos aplenty from the comfort of my desk chair. The tools pictured here are measuring rods, and it appears that not much is known about them, but you can make your own guesses:

"The square rod carries gunner's gauge scales and was therefore intended to measure shot, but the purpose of the pointed rods and knife is not entirely clear.

The objects are neither signed nor dated, but the style of the decoration and the language used suggest that they are German and were made in the late 16th century."

The rest of the exhibit is super-cool, too, if you have a few hours to while away.

Bone Broth 101

Whether you drink it on its own or use it as stock, bone broth is the perfect recipe to master this winter. Special thanks to the Institute of Culinary Education

Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?

If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).


More from mental floss studios