Animals on treadmills are having a moment today. But where “Munchkin the Teddy Bear” treads that moving belt in the name of cuteness, this turkey trots for science. Thomas Roberts, professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University, spends his days watching turkeys run on treadmills, as Chris Duffy writes for Digg, to help “scientists understand how to build more efficient robots, to understand neuromuscular disorders, and to design better prosthetics for humans.”
Turkeys, which can reach speeds faster than six miles per hour, work well as research subjects due to their size and anatomy. And if you shoot in black and white and slow down the footage, as Duffy did here, they almost look like something out of an abstract art house film.
Dr. Roberts recently appeared on Duffy’s podcast, You’re the Expert, in which a team of comedians attempts to guess, à la 20 questions, what a professor studies. In addition to Roberts (who, yes, to answer one comedian’s question, studies something that rhymes with “smiology”), the show has featured academics who study sand, fish noises and canine cognition.
Now, for the million-dollar question: Does Roberts eat turkey on Thanksgiving? He does. “I just don’t think about it,” he admits.
Listen to the full episode below: