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June 20th, 2006


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01:35 pm - Give Alex a cork nut for his hatch day!
Alex the African Grey is pretty damn awesome. Smartest parrot in the world. The ifMUD people know that, and I'm pretty sure someone's tipped 'em off to the fact that Alex celebrated his 30th hatch day recently and has also discovered the concept of zero (rather, "a numerical concept akin to zero") -- and if not, well, let me present the announcement and a financial call-to-arms, courtesy sanspoof, who's had the pleasure of working with Dr. Irene Pepperberg and knocking back the cork nuts with Alex ("cork nut" is a term Alex himself coined for almonds, a favorite snack.)
Alex is an African Grey parrot that is learning to recognize various letters, can count to 7 and is working on 8, and learned the color 'grey' by looking at himself in a mirror and asking 'what color?' He's just turned 30. Irene Pepperberg (my professor last semester, and an awesome lady), who bought him from a pet store and has been studying him ever since, has just won an award for her paper on Alex's zero-like concept, which is a major coup given how hard it is to get any recognition in the animal cognitive field nowadays. The pursuit is very uncool right now; it's not techy or sexy, and lots of scientists are finding themselves with cut funding or the inability to renew grants. So, in order to help in some small way, I'm making t-shirts to benefit the Alex Foundation. You can buy them here.
So help keep Alex in cork nuts by getting a t-shirt! It has a parrot on it! You like parrots!

(7 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:sanspoof
Date:June 20th, 2006 06:08 pm (UTC)
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Cheers! Thanks!
And thanks for being more accurate than Wikipedia on the zero-like concept thing. Don't want Noam Chomsky knocking on your door in the dead of night.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:June 20th, 2006 06:23 pm (UTC)
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I'd rather not have Noam Chomsky knocking on my door at any time of day, but I'm glad to ensure no night-dead visits. Cheers!
[User Picture]
From:plumtreeblossom
Date:June 20th, 2006 06:08 pm (UTC)
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I love Alex and his cork nuts. :-)
[User Picture]
From:limax
Date:June 20th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
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If they had mentioned it on ifMUD, it was at a point when I was not around. Happy 30th to Alex! Our parrots are now 10 and 8, I think... (my wife knows better than me... they're hers after all)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:sanspoof
Date:June 20th, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC)
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Well, I've got Griffin doing it, anyhow.

[User Picture]
From:clickie
Date:June 20th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)
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In "Animals in Translation," by Temple Grandin, she talks about another cool concept that Alex learned: how to spell! Apparently, Dr. Pepperberg was trying to demonstrate some of Alex's skills in learning phonemes, and when he did his thing and asked for his nut, she told him "not now" and was talking to someone else; after a few times of Alex saying "want a nut" and being blown off, Alex said "want a nut. Nnn, uh, tuh." No one taught him how to string them together...he did it on his own!
[User Picture]
From:sanspoof
Date:June 20th, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC)
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Heh, yeah, Irene tells that story all the time. The best part is that he did that during auditing time at the MIT nedia lab, so they completely got their go-ahead for the next year.

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