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Medical Can Starlings recurse

  1. May 3, 2006 #1

    selfAdjoint

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    Can Starlings "recurse"

    There's a paper out in Nature claiming experiments that demonstrate European starlings show evidence of a recursive language module a la Chomsky, and this has prompted several critical evaluations. The best one I have found is at http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003076.html, which has a link to the paper. As a bonus it has some intro to cognitive linguistic theory.
     
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  3. May 4, 2006 #2
    We have a small woods near our house that a family of squirrels used to live in when I was younger. They'd run around our housing estate and we'd feed them monkey nuts (shelled peanuts).

    I used to whistle to them when I saw one and it'd come over to see if I had any peanuts left; they could burry a bag of them in no time! I must have planted a few hundred peanut bushes around here by now with their help.

    One day I was out in the garden and noticed a familiar sound, a bird on a roof nearby was tweeting the same pattern I'd been whistling to the squirrels. I was pretty impressed! :biggrin:

    I was perhaps more impressed to see that the squirrels had been 'playing my ass'. I'd been wondering where they could be burrying the nuts that allowed them to get back to me so quickly, and this wondering developed into tying a long piece of string to my backdoor's handle and then to the nuts, which the squirrels would run off with at speed and burry (unless they ran out of string first, twaaaang). It was hard to find the nuts even when I'd just watched the squirrel burry it. But one day the mystery was solved when I discovered they were working me in shifts, as one was about to disappear it would wave it's tail round a bit (it'd also responded to me if I made similar movements) and then take off, only for it's brother or sister to run into the garden from the other side and into the kitchen.

    Not particularly high tech neural stuff, but it always makes me smile when I see animals behaving in such human ways.

    The squirrels were great, they'd climb along the washing line and up my pants if they thought there was a peanut to be gained from any of it, although their claws were evilly sharp!

    I just started looking after hives of bees and it's interesting watching them really, really close up in person. I'm also supervising some ants that seem to be building a house under some wood tiling in our house. During the day, every 30s or so, one comes up through a gap in the tile with a single grain of soil, walks for a bit, puts it down and goes back. I've even seen ants working in two lanes, one going in and the other coming out. Amazing stuff!
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2006
  4. May 5, 2006 #3

    selfAdjoint

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    As you say, these behaviors, which I also enjoy, are low tech, basically imitation or regurgitation of a remembered bit. The link discusses the various kinds of language processors theorists have devised, and the squirrels and mocking bird's behavior can be attained by just tacking a memory store onto a finite state machine. But true parsing of a context-free language requires a system that is recursive, and thus potentially infinite state. This is what the researchers claim for their starlings, and what most language researchers believe they have not succeeded in showing.
     
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