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Alex the African Grey Parrot Dies

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the teaching-us-how-to-communicate dept.

Education 242

grrlscientist writes "Yesterday, I received the devastating news that Alex the African Grey parrot, who was both a study subject and colleague to Irene Pepperberg, died unexpectedly at 31 years of age. 'Even though Alex was a research animal, he was much more than that. This species of parrot generally lives to be 50-60 years old, so Alex was only middle-aged when he died. According to some reports I have read, it is possible that Alex might have succumbed to Aspergillosis, a fungal infection of the lungs that he has battled in the past. However, the cause of death will not be known until after a necropsy has been completed... Alex's veterinarian is returning from vacation to personally conduct this necrospy.'"

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Cue the... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530521)

Anyone who makes a comment about pining for the fjords gets a slap.

from the teaching-us-how-to-communicate dept? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530707)

This story is clearly from the "he's resting" or "beautiful plumage" dept.

kdawson please check in your geek card at the door on the way out!

Re:Cue the... (4, Funny)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530735)

Ok no jokes, but did we get any last words [wikiquote.org] to quote then?

Final count down?? (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531053)


Three, two, one.....

Bert

Clearly it was Hospital Food that done him in. (1)

infonography (566403) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530855)

Anonymous Coward

Anyone who makes a comment about pining for the fjords gets a slap.
Pining for Fjords just makes them grumpy. Besides He was an African Grey, not a Norwegian Blue. Still if this is the Second Earth Commissioned by the Mice then Slartibartfast got to have glaciers roll over Africa as he mentioned in the Hitchhikers Guide (the good version).

Uhm... (4, Funny)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530525)

Ok... *still trying to figure out how this is newsworthy* I know, I know.. I'm new here...

Re:Uhm... (4, Funny)

QMalcolm (1094433) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530575)

Newsworthy? Colored parrots are going down. Dude, you're next!

Re:Uhm... (4, Funny)

HTTP Error 403 403.9 (628865) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530899)

Hopefully there was any fowl play involved.

Re:Uhm... (1, Offtopic)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531245)

Newsworthy? Colored parrots are going down.

Indeed, but are we talking about African, or European parrots?

Re:Uhm... (5, Funny)

Rebelgecko (893016) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530589)

by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday September 09, @12:18PM (#20530525)
Ok... *still trying to figure out how this is newsworthy* I know, I know.. I'm new here...
As one of his fellow parrots, you should be very familiar with Alex [wikipedia.org] . You should not let minor differences such as the color of your feathers get in the way of appreciating the scientific contributions of another parrot. Be tolerant of different-colored parrots, it's what Alex would have wanted.

Re:Uhm... (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531309)

> Be tolerant of different-colored parrots, it's what Alex would have wanted.

Sad. I didn't know colors mattered, too.
I thought all the fuss was about african vs. european ones.

Re:Uhm... (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530603)

Surveying the responses while in the ~10 range, the news value of this story seems related to the "Dead Parrot Sketch".

Re:Uhm... (5, Informative)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530613)

You must not know much about this. Alex was an incredible bird. I've seen him on TV a couple of times. Many birds can repeat things. Some might even be able to associate (say specifically ask for food).

Alex, though hard training and probably natural ability was far beyond that. He knew tons of words. He could answer simple questions and interpret human language. I remember seeing videos of them giving him a little toy car and asking him what it was, to which he responded "truck" (close enough). He did this with a couple of objects. They could ask him what color an object was and he could tell you.

Check out the Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] article on him.

This is news, like Washoe dying would be news (is Washoe still alive?)

Re:Uhm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530773)

I figured that out when I clicked through to the article (yes, really!) and saw the picture (saw him on TV too), but that's the type of information that you think the little Slashdot summary could have contained.

Personally, my bet is that kdawson saw the submitter was "grrl"-something and thought he had to post it to try and get laid. Geeks will do anything that a girl - or at least, someone they think is a girl - asks them.

Re:Uhm... (4, Insightful)

808140 (808140) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531109)

Or maybe, just maybe, he (like many Slashdotters, including myself) actually knew who Alex was, because a) he's famous and b) we have more varied interests than just whether Apple is going to release a new iPod or not.

Non-human intelligence is interesting for some of us, even if said non-humans don't come from another planet.

Re:Uhm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530811)

is Washoe still alive?

It would appear so: http://www.friendsofwashoe.org/washoe_bio.shtml [friendsofwashoe.org]

Re:Uhm... (4, Informative)

Gorath99 (746654) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530863)

Also, Alex has been covered by Slashdot before. Here's a previous Slashdot article about the fact that he may have grasped the concept of zero [slashdot.org] .

I'm also pretty sure that one of the releases of Parrot (the perl6 VM) was named after him [slashdot.org] . If that doesn't make his death "News for Nerds", then I don't know what does.

News for Nerds? (3, Funny)

phorm (591458) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531803)

If that doesn't make his death "News for Nerds", then I don't know what does.

Initially I read Nerds as Birds... which would make for an interesting headline:

News for Birds, stuff with crackers

Re:Uhm... (4, Insightful)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531383)

You missed "spontaneously offering up other little details in conversation" like he was interested in, and wanted to talk about the subject. I am sure it's on Youtube somewhere, the one when he's eating corn and they have a conversation about it.

And, making generalizations that far surpassed what some of the top dolphins have done, and what we are barely doing with chimps now.

Heck, I have met people in bars with less cognitive awareness than this bird.

Re:Uhm... (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531415)

He could answer simple questions and interpret human language.

From what I've heard, he made prelearned sounds in response to certain shapes or sounds. That's nothing like answering any kind of question or interpreting any language, let alone human language.

Human language is a unique feat of evolution and it's not arrogant to say so, it's simple fact. Our trying to find it in other species would be the same as a bunch of giraffe scientists looking at a human and saying "wow, he stretched his neck a whole quarter inch! He's just like us!"

Re:Uhm... (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531521)

Read the book, or at least some reviews of it, before you make such wrong-headed assumptions based on "what you've heard."

Obligatory Monty Python (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530631)

Mr. Praline: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

(The owner does not respond.)

Mr. Praline: 'Ello, Miss?

Owner: What do you mean "miss"?

Mr. Praline: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!

Owner: We're closin' for lunch.

Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!

Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

Mr. Praline: The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

Mr. Praline: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Mister Polly Parrot! I've got a lovely fresh cuttle fish for you if you
          show...

(owner hits the cage)

Owner: There, he moved!
Mr. Praline: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the cage!

Owner: I never!!
Mr. Praline: Yes, you did!

Owner: I never, never did anything...

Mr. Praline: (yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly) 'ELLO POLLY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!

(Takes parrot out of the cage and thumps its head on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)

Mr. Praline: Now that's what I call a dead parrot.

Thanks! I'll be here all week!

Re:Uhm... (-1, Troll)

Reaperducer (871695) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530665)

And with one final worthless entry, Slashdot officially jumps the shark.

Re:Uhm... (4, Informative)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530931)

Alex is an important case for understanding cognitive development and non-human linguistic competence, and findings related to the study of Alex's linguistic development have implications for natural language processing.

In this case, the shark jumps you.

Re:Uhm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20531647)

In Soviet Russia...

Re:Uhm... (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531043)

Ok... *still trying to figure out how this is newsworthy* I know, I know.. I'm new here...
They're just providing the setup so everyone can make ex-parrot jokes. This is to nerds as laser pointers are to cats.

This hit me hard... (1)

jflo (1151079) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531079)

The death of Alex the African Grey Parrot hit me harder than when Data died in the last Star Trek movie. This is truely a horrible day for Bird lovers everywhere. I guess I'll just go buy myself a gerbal to help fill the void. These are not smiles times.

Re:Uhm... (1)

Mouthless Wolf (1153783) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531449)

Good night, sweet prince. Born - 1976 Died - September 7, 2007 :(

Obligatory (1)

TheBearBear (1103771) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530535)

Wonder if anyone has checked for a nail?

Re:Obligatory (1)

cpq (1153697) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530609)

Or a lock box key...

Re:Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20531623)

Mmm only if there was a sparrow in the room.

Gov't had something to do with it? (1)

cpq (1153697) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530553)

He was just middle aged, I smell something wrong here. I suggest a full investigation into the causes of his untimely demise... Slow news day, huh?

Re:Gov't had something to do with it? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531165)

Clearly he knew too much.

Re:Gov't had something to do with it? (5, Informative)

ccbailey (859060) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531243)

Unfortunately, it seems that Alex died on the 7th and his necropsy won't be conducted until the tomorrow, the 10th. The thing about avian tissues is that they tend to autolyze rather quickly. If he really died of aspergillosis and has fungal plaques all over the lungs, air sacs, and liver then the diagnosis is a no-brainer. On the other hand, if the diagnosis requires high quality histologic sections to make- well that might be harder with three-day-dead bird tissues.

Why would anyone wait three days for his personal veterinarian to return when there are boarded veterinary pathologists at Angell and Tufts in the state who could be called in over the weekend? Seems like with a bird this famous, it would have been worth the effort to do things right.

Elsewhere, (1, Insightful)

smiltee (1099075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530555)

in other news, 300 Chinese people died from a coal mine explosion.

Re:Elsewhere, (4, Funny)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530627)

in other news, 300 Chinese people died from a coal mine explosion.

Yeah, but that doesn't give us a cue to commence the recital of Monty Python routines.

I don't know... (4, Funny)

thegnu (557446) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530669)

in other news, 300 Chinese people died from a coal mine explosion.

Yeah, but that doesn't give us a cue to commence the recital of Monty Python routines.

I don't know, the Chinese government says they're sleeping.

Re:Elsewhere, (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531585)

If only they had been lumberjacks.

Re:Elsewhere, (1)

Attila (23211) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530695)

in other news, 300 Chinese people died from a coal mine explosion.
Yeah, but there's no obligatory Monty Python reference in that, is there?

Re:Elsewhere, (-1, Troll)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530759)

Only 1,199,999,700 left to go.
 

Re:Elsewhere, (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530941)

What do you call 300 Chinese dying in a coal mine?

A good start.

My dad lost his job because of cheap fukin chinese crap.

Re:Elsewhere, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20531029)

Gee, my condolence. Have a good life, kid.

Re:Elsewhere, (1)

Synonymous Dastard (1126353) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531837)

My dad lost his job because of cheap fukin chinese crap.


More probably because of the people who chose to use this crap.

Re:Elsewhere, (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530801)

Oh please, are you trolling? Firstly slashdot isn't a general news site, secondly there's always more "worthy" news to report, if we followed those criteria all news outlets would be 24/7 death and misery ... we're near enough to that already.

Sadly a bunch of Chinese miners dying isn't particularly unusual or newsworthy, either. That's what happens when you have hardly any safety measures at all.

Re:Elsewhere, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530869)

Sadly a bunch of Chinese miners dying isn't particularly unusual or newsworthy, either.
Wise choice to post as AC. Now who's trolling.

Re:Elsewhere, (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531059)

in other news, 300 Chinese people died from a coal mine explosion.
Oh, good, now we can work in the "I like chinese" song, too.

Re:Elsewhere, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20531339)

Whatever. They'll make more

What about the Norweigan Blue? (3, Funny)

the_womble (580291) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530565)

And have they tried putting 50,000 volts through it?

Re:What about the Norweigan Blue? (4, Funny)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530895)

Jeg lever fortsatt. Er litt sliten da... tror jeg skal sove lidt...

Profit? (3, Funny)

SavedLinuXgeeK (769306) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530569)

I wonder if anyone has tried to sell him to a blind kid...

Re:Profit? (2, Funny)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530653)

1: Obtain dead parrot
2: ???
3: Profit!

2 probably involves some sort of comedy routine, rather than any attempt to sell the thing, though.

"My parrot died, give me money"... (0, Flamebait)

tjstork (137384) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530597)

That sums up the article for ya, right there. Famous bird, written up in New York Times. A tragedy, dead. Give me some money...

Re:"My parrot died, give me money"... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530679)

Famous bird, written up in New York Times. A tragedy, dead. Give me some money...

It is quite newsworthy, though. This parrot had particularly beautiful plumage.

Re:"My parrot died, give me money"... (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531611)

That sums up the article for ya, right there. Famous bird, written up in New York Times. A tragedy, dead. Give me some money...

Paris Hilton? That's not a tragedy. I'll keep my money.

What the Hell? (0, Troll)

Romancer (19668) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530623)

Will someone tell me what kdawson is smoking? Why do I find myself looking at that name every time I see an article that has no business on Slashdot?

Re:What the Hell? (0, Troll)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530791)

No kidding. I've lost patience for this "editor". Fortunately, I can take him out of my profile so I don't see stories posted by him.

But I hope CmdrTaco or someone else in charge of the site gets the hint and takes this guy off editor duty.

Re:What the Hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530793)

Um... "kdawson" is a girl?

Re:What the Hell? (4, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530809)

Can you explain to me why this story isn't newsworthy? It's not like this was just someone's personal parrot. This was a very important and rather famous research animal. I've seen him on more than one TV show. I think I've seen him on the evening news once. I know he was a segment on an episode of Scientific American Frontiers with Alan Alda.

Re:What the Hell? (5, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531001)

For me, the sign of the decline of Slashdot isn't that they are posting articles on the death of Alex. It's that the readership thinks only articles about iPhones, CPUs and videogames are "news for nerds."

Re:What the Hell? (1)

lpontiac (173839) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531127)

For me, the sign of the decline of Slashdot isn't that they are posting articles on the death of Alex. It's that the readership thinks only articles about iPhones, CPUs and videogames are "news for nerds."
You can see a similar effect over in this thread [slashdot.org] . The "hurrr CFLAGS hurrr" 'nerd' crowd is here in force.

Re:What the Hell? (1)

tsjaikdus (940791) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531255)

However in this thread they are easily recognizable. Mostly it's a lot harder to tell who is talking shit en pick out the few comments that have any value.

Re:What the Hell? (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531323)

I think what you are proposing is called a "false dilemma". The assertion is that this news story is garbage that shouldn't have made it to slashdot headlines (which I agree with; I mean if you really cared about this story you'd already be subscribed to alt.fan.parrots or maybe alt.pet.obituaries and wouldn't need slashdot to tell you about this). You are suggesting that the only way for one to see this story as worthless is if you have too narrow a focus and only care about iPhones, CPUs, and videogames. And yet there is a third option, that is in fact the correct one:

The majority of slashdot readers think iPhones, CPUs, and videogames are very geek-newsworthy, but also have lots of other interests and appreciate a wide variety of stories about science & technology subjects. Most of them, I am guessing, don't give a shit about one particular researcher's one particular pet subject having died. Doesn't make their interests narrow.

Obviously, what is and isn't interesting news is highly subjective. But I'll bet if you took a poll, most people would put this in the "roll your eyes and move on" category. Hell I only read the comments of this article to see how many people flamed kdawson (deservedly so) for posting it. I was surprised to find people defending him but I guess I shouldn't have been. There is always a contrary position out there somewhere.

I think it's telling that this story was posted by kdawson. Do you think that one of the more respected editors would have pushed this crap out?

Re:What the Hell? (4, Informative)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531407)

If you did any reading of the article or the other posts on this thread, you'd know that this was significant to people interested in cognitive development, non-human cognition, and linguistics - very nerdly topics, if you get past the lack of iPhones and such. But no, you decided to go ad hominem.

There was a book about Alex, called "The Alex Papers," describing the research, and the relationship between the researcher and Alex. It may have some flaws, but it is still important work.

You may be right about that poll, though. That's what I describe as a "decline." The term "idiocracy" comes to mind.

Re:What the Hell? (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531003)

The owner instead of training the parrot to be a dumb pet treated the bird using common approaches for children (especially ones with learning disabilities) with an amazing result. The parrot could talk and reason up to a level of roughly 3-3.5 year old.
I have seen the bird on a BBC documentary (PBS originally) and if this is the same bird I remember that was totally nuts. I could not believe what I see and what I hear. It was surreal.
This is news. Sad unfortunately.

Re:What the Hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530841)

Because Slashdot hired a political blogger who didn't read Slashdot before working here because he could further their agenda for politics.slashdot.org? I'll never forget him putting a story about whether or not people have an inherent right to broadband under the "Enlightenment" topic (it was changed to a different topic a while afterward). I assume they were trying to roll Jon Katz and Michael Sims into one editor.

Re:What the Hell? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530907)

Moron.

This is newsworthy to any science geek worth his/her salt. The fact that you think it isn't says more about your own sad lack of understanding than anything else.

Slashdot isn't all about P2P, wifi and linux you know. Perhaps you shouldn't be just about those things either. It may make you a better person in the long run.

Re:What the Hell? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530945)

Wanker. Who gives a fuck about a dead parrot outside the obvious Monty Python quotes. How many people even have parrots these days, let alone "nerds"? Now fuck off you tosser!

It's no wonder digg thrashes this site, even though the mean age of its users is probably 13. This place is a joke compared to what it used to be like.

Re:What the Hell? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531371)

A dead parrot?

If GWB died, and TV brought a special feature about it, you'd probably complain about that too, because just that someone dies doesn't justify a special feature. After all, how many people die every day?

Re:What the Hell? (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531267)

I agree. I'd say 1/3 of headlines I see on Slashdot are flamebait or fluff, and 1/2 of those come from kdawson. Just now I went into my preferences pages and removed kdawson but then after a few minutes I undid it. Why?

Because I don't want to miss the 1/3 of stories that he posts that are worth reading. I am worried about missing something, because even though kdawson is the worst editor slashdot has ever had (although it's a close race with zonk), every once in a while even he/she/it posts something worthwhile.

Is there some way to filter just the ridiculously lame stories that kdawson posts? Is there a slashdot tag that is something like "kdawson-at-it-again" or something, so I can filter just the 50% of crap out?

Re:What the Hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20531379)

Why would you filter any editor out? Editors are irrelevant. We all come here to read out-there comments, don' we.

Re:What the Hell? (1)

Workaphobia (931620) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531513)

The reason it's on Slashdot is that when I looked at the headline I said out loud, "Oh damn", because I actually heard of the bird (admittedly from a previous Slashdot posting, but one of unquestionable interest) and was moved by its death. It's about as relevant as a space probe dying, if not more.

The news today... (1)

doit3d (936293) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530629)

...has gone to the birds.

Dead parrot (0, Redundant)

sepluv (641107) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530637)

'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

Researcher's Famous Dog Seen in Bronco (0, Offtopic)

tjstork (137384) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530693)

Animal control officials are shadowing Fido, rumoured to be in a White Ford Bronco driving down I-95. Fido, the famous physics dog, is said to be a suspect in the surprising parrot case. Yesterday, a necropsy revealed teethmarks in the flank of Alex, the dancing parrot who is said to have helped invent the personal computer.

A trainer for Fido was heard to say, via cell phone, "if the tooth don't fit, you must acquit!"

Re:Researcher's Famous Dog Seen in Bronco (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531251)

Actually I've heared the parrot was killed by Schrödinger's cat.

Re:Researcher's Famous Dog Seen in Bronco (3, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531457)

No, the parrot may or may not have been killed by Schrödinger's cat, who may or may not be dead.

Great attention grabbing first sentence (3, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530711)

albeit probably unintentionally: As you know, I have spent my life researching, breeding and living with birds,

This coming from someone who calls themselves grrrlscientist. You could probably make some videos to pay for your research.....

Alex the African Grey Parrot Dies (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20530713)

Oh god I fucking hate black people.

Alex was cool. (5, Informative)

FlatCatInASlatVat (828700) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530745)

I met him once. He really was a remarkable bird and could use language for communication, not just mimicry. He would answer all sorts of question about objects that you showed him. Some errors, of course, but correct responses way above chance. Together with all the reports over the last few years about tool-making and using in crows, it makes you have a lot more respect for birds. Makes me think of watching crows play and tumble on a strong, turbulent wind or pelican "surf" the air just in front of a nice clean wave. Awesome.

A new beginning... (3, Insightful)

machinelou (1119861) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530779)

Although this animal could do some fairly impressive things, I often felt she (Dr. Pepperberg) and her colleagues made too much of it. The constellation of things referred to by English speakers as "Language" is far too broad to be especially meaningful when applied to the behavior of a parrot. The behaviors of "speaking" and "listening" are better described as falling along a continuum as opposed to a skill that one either has or not.
And this is fairly important news because, from what I understand, most Alex's success has not been replicated with other birds. Hopefully this will prompt her and/or others to better describe the conditions under which animals (and humans) come to do things we refer to as language as opposed to simply cataloging differences between species which are all too easy to find.

Re:A new beginning... (2, Insightful)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531033)

What I hope is that findings like those related to Alex, as well as those involving learned and socially communicated non-human primate behavior, gets us farther and farther away from crude nature-vs-nurture models and toward theories based on brains as adaptive, re-organizing dynamical systems. It is shocking how much naive innatism and folk-modularity is getting promulgated in the popular media nowadays.

For the sake of completeness... (5, Funny)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530799)

Dead Parrot Sketch

The cast:

          MR. PRALINE
                    John Cleese
          SHOP OWNER
                    Michael Palin

The sketch:

          A customer enters a pet shop.

          Mr. Praline: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

          (The owner does not respond.)

          Mr. Praline: 'Ello, Miss?

          Owner: What do you mean "miss"?

          Mr. Praline: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!

          Owner: We're closin' for lunch.

          Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

          Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

          Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!

          Owner: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.

          Mr. Praline: Look, matey, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

          Owner: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!

          Mr. Praline: The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

          Owner: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!

          Mr. Praline: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Mister Polly Parrot! I've got a lovely fresh cuttle fish for you if you
          show...

          (owner hits the cage)

          Owner: There, he moved!

          Mr. Praline: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the cage!

          Owner: I never!!

          Mr. Praline: Yes, you did!

          Owner: I never, never did anything...

          Mr. Praline: (yelling and hitting the cage repeatedly) 'ELLO POLLY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!

          (Takes parrot out of the cage and thumps its head on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)

          Mr. Praline: Now that's what I call a dead parrot.

          Owner: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!

          Mr. Praline: STUNNED?!?

          Owner: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Norwegian Blues stun easily, major.

          Mr. Praline: Um...now look...now look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That parrot is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not 'alf an hour
          ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.

          Owner: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the fjords.

          Mr. Praline: PININ' for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got 'im home?

          Owner: The Norwegian Blue prefers keepin' on it's back! Remarkable bird, id'nit, squire? Lovely plumage!

          Mr. Praline: Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the
          first place was that it had been NAILED there.

          (pause)

          Owner: Well, o'course it was nailed there! If I hadn't nailed that bird down, it would have nuzzled up to those bars, bent 'em apart with its beak, and
          VOOM! Feeweeweewee!

          Mr. Praline: "VOOM"?!? Mate, this bird wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'E's bleedin' demised!

          Owner: No no! 'E's pining!

          Mr. Praline: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e
          rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the
          bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

          (pause)

          Owner: Well, I'd better replace it, then. (he takes a quick peek behind the counter) Sorry squire, I've had a look 'round the back of the shop, and uh,
          we're right out of parrots.

          Mr. Praline: I see. I see, I get the picture.

          Owner: I got a slug.

          (pause)

          Mr. Praline: Pray, does it talk?

          Owner: Nnnnot really.

          Mr. Praline: WELL IT'S HARDLY A BLOODY REPLACEMENT, IS IT?!!???!!?

          Owner: N-no, I guess not. (gets ashamed, looks at his feet)

          Mr. Praline: Well.

          (pause)

          Owner: (quietly) D'you.... d'you want to come back to my place?

          Mr. Praline: (looks around) Yeah, all right, sure.

No no he's not dead, he's, he's resting! (2, Funny)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530805)

nt

Pining for the fjords? (5, Funny)

GBC (981160) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530819)

Finally, I can quote the "Dead Parrot Sketch" and not be off-topic!

Luckily for me, Alex died young - I don't know if I could have held out for another 19-29 years...

Re:Pining for the fjords? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20531423)

Fortunately, it will be modded redundant very very quickly.

Whats newsworthy about this is : (3, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530905)

this parrot was smarter and more intelligent than a certain percentage of /.ers. this is that kind of news.

no really, he was really, really overly smart. major geek stuff.

wow (-1, Troll)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530925)

a new low even for no-news days.

Arrrggghhhh!!!!!!! (4, Funny)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 7 years ago | (#20530977)

Me an Me shipmates extend to ye oer sympathies. Tis tuf to looz a parrot, I wuldnt be da same witout mine. Arrrrrggghhhh.
May he rest in Davy Jones Locker in peace. Arrrgghhhh!!!!!

no way! (0, Redundant)

SadMarvin (1010929) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531007)

He is just pining for the fjords... I cant believe I nobody said it already!!! C'mon wath is happening with Slashdot!

What They Didn't Tell... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20531055)

He was delicious!

how sad (3, Funny)

Rutulian (171771) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531057)

I met Alex four years ago at Brandeis. He tried to mate with my arm... :(

Re:how sad (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531285)

>He tried to mate with my arm...

This is slashdot. Everybody here uses own arm to try to "mate".

Nevermind, read TFA and TFcomments, some interesting story about nuts, really.

LOL. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20531313)

LOL Bitches.

boo fucking hoo (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20531329)

throw the bird in the trash and get over it.

Of Course It's Tech News! (1)

Easy2RememberNick (179395) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531377)

A Parrot is a bird, a Penguin is a bird, the mascot of Linux is Tux the Penguin. See? Totally relevant.

I was about to rejoyce ... (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531505)

after reading the news that the Mac community prevented the coup, and now you are bringing me down with a news that whatever parrot died. reading the slashdot is becoming a roller-coaster ride.

Birds live long (2, Interesting)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 7 years ago | (#20531599)

My local pet store has a parrot that was born in 1914. He seems healthy and spry (and he bites).

obHomer: Mmmmmm.... peppered bird...

The last nail... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20531621)

in Perl's coffin :*(

at least it was a natural death (no python involved).
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