Clever Hans the Intelligent Horse

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Clever HansPaul Spooner’s latest work features a complicated mechanism which draws the infinity symbol.

The story of Clever Hans is pretty well known. There’s a good account on Wikipedia with valuable links to other smart animal stories such as Nazi Talking Dogs and Lady Wonder, a mare with purported psychic powers which enabled her to foretell the outcomes of horse races. Clever Hans – Wikipedia.

Hans flourished around the turn of the 20th century and communicated by means of hoof taps. If asked the square root of 49, he would bang the ground seven times and stop. He could compute the dates of Easter, in both the Catholic and Orthodox calendars and perform other complex calculations with great accuracy.

Thinking that such an intelligent animal might be frustrated by the limitations of hoof- tapping as a means of communication, I did this drawing to show how Hans might extend his repertoire into the graphic domain. Were someone to give him a sum to which the answer was ‘infinity’, a less resourceful beast might be forced to tap on the ground an infinite number of times. To save himself from an eternity of tapping, I surmised that Hans might make imaginative use his god-given resources.

Clever Hans

About a year later, I had developed the technology to make a model of this striking example of animal intelligence. Key to the design is the long conical spring wound from stainless steel wire, tipped with a small Neodymium magnet and sheathed in thin leather.

Clever Hans

The mechanism that controls the movement of Hans’s drawing instrument is sketched below. It clearly shows the Cartesian coordinates; the X axis controlled by a crank producing harmonic motion and the Y axis by a sliding carriage governed by a cam.

Clever Hans

The Hans sculpture is carved from limewood with additions crafted from leather, wire and a magnet as detailed above. The mechanism is largely made of oak recycled from a wardrobe.

Height 270mm x Width 270mm x Depth 100mm

Edition of 2. Sold.

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