20th June 1989

From: maukh@warwick.ac.uk (Sunstorm the Intestinal)
Newsgroups: misc.misc
Subject: Re: Pigeons
Date: 20 Jun 89 18:04:45 GMT

In article <3278@mhres.mh.nl> ml@mh_co2.mh.nl (Marco Luiten) writes:

Can anyone tell me how pigeons can find their home, sometimes for over hundreds of kilometers?

Well, Marco, it's like this: they can't. No way, no how. Pigeons have the most amazingly inaccurate direction sense of all reptiles. It's probably not far from the truth to say that a pigeon couldn't even tell you the name of the last pub it had frequented, let alone where it lives.

But pigeons *are* good at something very different, and yet astoundingly relevent. They're remarkably efficient users of a very limitted form of ESP, known as Image Assimilation and Transference; and they're possibly the best physical mutators in the whole vegetable kingdom. How, you may ask, does this relate to them being such apparently good navigators? The answer, of course, is that it doesn't. An explanation of how the pigeons use these abilities will show you just how this is (or isn't) achieved.

The "prime directive" that evolution has so cunningly seen fit to instill in the pigeon can be verbalised as follows: wander around and see if you can find anything resembling an eleven foot tall thing wearing chickens. Naturally Evolution didn't bother to tell the pigeons what to do once they'd found this thing and the debate is still on as to whether this evolutionary indescretion is a good thing. Most people agree, however, that the pigeons aren't likely to find the eleven foot tall thing wearing chickens in any case.

Anyway ... I think we've established that, due to the arbitrary and somewhat insatiable nature of their prime directive, pigeons are inclined to wander around aimlessly throughout a large proportion of their adult lives. Now during this extensive wandering the pigeons are constantly using their unique form of ESP to "scan" (it is beyond the scope of this article to explain the mechanics behind the ESP or the physical mutations mentioned here) the radiant subconscious thought bubbles that leak out of the brains of anyone who isn't wearing a rubber library over their head (ie. most people not resident in Vatican City). The range through which a typical (alive) pigeon can scan has been empirically evaluated at almost 15 billion light years (about the extent of the observable universe). Any psychic emissions that are NOT related to pigeons are then discarded.

A probabilistic analysis is then carried out on the remaining thought bubbles, to decide which of them is most likely to relate to the absense of a particular pigeon, and expectation of the imminent arrival of the self-same pigeon.

Our archetypal pigeon will then undergo rapid physical mutation, convergent on the aforementioned instance of pigeon-related thought bubbles in the near (less than 1 nautical mile) vicinity. The ability to mutate is so complete that even images of foot-bracelets and capsules containing messages will be replicated, down to the molecular level.

On most occasions the mutated pigeon will arrive at the locale determined from the aforementioned aforementioned thought bubbles, as expected by the emanator of the thoughts. Thus the arrival of a particular pigeon at a particular location is PURELY contingent on the fact that someone, somewhere is thinking about it. It is rarely, if ever, the same pigeon returning "home" that was sent away in the first place -- merely another wandering pigeon converging on the thought patterns of the person expecting it to return.

A simple test to demostrate this is to send away a "trained" carrier pigeon and then get everyone involved in the operation to wear rubber libraries over their heads. The pigeon will not "return" until one (or more) of the rubber libraries is removed. As well as being a boni-fide scientific experiment, it's also a really neat party trick if you can pull it off.

I hope that's answered your question, Marco.

As this is such a common question in this newsgroup, perhaps there should be a monthly posting of the answer.

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