Saturday, July 09, 2005

Parrot grasps the zero

Science news:
A parrot has grasped the concept of zero, something humans can't do until at least the toddler phase, researchers say.

Alex, a 28-year-old African gray parrot who lives in a lab at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, has a brain the size of a walnut. But when confronted with no items on a tray where usually there are some, he says "none."

Zero is thought to be a rather abstract concept even for people. Children typically don't grasp it until age three or four, Brandeis researchers say. Some ancient cultures lacked a formal term for zilch, even as recently as the Middle Ages.
I am not sure that most American adults understand the concept. Yes, toddlers can learn it easily, and yet the elementary schools are reluctant to make use of it. Newspaper articles are typically written for people who do not understand the zero.

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