29 June 2009

Boogie fever in non-humans

I was not surprised to see Oliver Sacks on The Daily Show tonight. He’s written a lot of fine books, and The Daily Show showcases many fine authors and makes fun of them.

What I was surprised about was that he made a mistake. Now, I can see why he made it, considering that it’s a recent finding, and I imagine book tours are not the best environment to keep up with the peer-reviewed literature. Still, considering that he’s got this big book on music, I might have thought somebody somewhere would have said to him, “Have you heard about this...?”

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Oliver Sacks
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Dr. Sacks claimed that only humans were musical. A few months ago, he would have been right. But then two papers came out that showed parrots can dance.

Normally, I would describe the research, but I’ve been way beaten to it by Quirks & Quarks, Not Exactly Rocket Science, Why Evolution is True, Oh, For the Love of Science and Ego Sum Daniel.

Still, as far as we know, Dr. Sacks was right about one thing: Trying to teach your dog to dance is a waste of time. I don’t care how smart you think your pooch is, they don’t have the funky flow.

1 comment:

Russell King said...

He apparently revised his book to take Snowball the dancing parrot into account so I was surprised by his statement as well. See the Boston Globe article for the article stating that he added the parrot info in between the hardcover and paperback versions of his book.