Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Alex & Me by Irene M Pepperberg *****

Irene Platzblatt and I were at MIT at the same time. We never met, but her autobiographical book Alex & Me reminded me how MIT manages to attract lost souls who are some how destined to succeed in spite of their alien, unearthly nature. But this book isn't merely a paean to nerds (aka tech tools); that is just an extra bonus. The star of this story is Alex.

Alex is an African Grey parrot who single-handedly, with the help of Irene (now Pepperberg, though divorced), changed to meaning of bird-brained and challenged to hegemony of primate (or mammalian) intellectual superiority.
"Want a nut." Alex was obviously getting more than a little frustrated. ... He looked at me and said slowly, "Want a nut. Nnn ... uh ... tuh."
I was stunned. It was as if he were saying, Hey stupid, do I have to spell it out for you?
A wonderfully written book about animal intelligence and science. I can not recommend it more highly.

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