How to Turn a Squid Into an iTunes Visualizer

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 27 2012 12:40 PM

Did You See This? Cypress Squid

Squid_CypressHill

Still from "Insane in the Chromatophores" from YouTube.

Who needs an iTunes visualizer when you’ve got a squid? For the video below, science educators Backyard Brains hooked up an iPod Nano to a squid, played Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain,” and videotaped the results

The results are surprisingly beautiful, and the song choice was, obviously, inspired. The Longfin Inshore Squid used for the video can change its coloring to camouflage itself—some squids make chameleons look like amateurs—and the squid’s pigmented cells pulsed in time with the music.

Over on their blog, Backyard Brains explained how it worked in more detail (the squid was of course dead long before they hooked it to any electrodes):

An iPod plays music by converting digital music to a small current that it sends to tiny magnets in the earbuds. The magnets are connected to cones that vibrate and produce sound.
Since this is the same electrical current that neurons use to communicate, we cut off the ear buds and instead placed the wire into the fin nerve. When the iPod sends bass frequencies (<100Hz) the axons in the nerves have enough charge to fire an action potential. This will in turn cause the muscles in the chromatophores to contract.
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So there’s how to turn a squid into the opening sequence of Fantasia—with science!

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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