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Parrot helps researchers understand flight

Parrot helps researchers understand flight

January 7th, 2017 by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in Opinion Columns

Obi may be a small Pacific parrot, but he doesn't want a cracker. Obi is much too sophisticated for that. Where other parrots (e.g., Polly) settle for mimicking human speech and begging, Obi is engaged in cutting-edge scientific research to understand flight.

Believe it or not, Obi wears goggles that protect his eyes as he flies through laser beams. He's the star of an experiment at Stanford University designed to test the accuracy of various mathematical methods for using the swirls of air in a bird's wake to understand what's keeping it aloft as it beats its wings.

If all goes according to plan, scientists will understand a little more about how to calculate lifts and vortexes and the mysteries of maintaining flight thanks to Obi and his laser-measured flapping wings.

A lot of theories and predictions are on the line. 

That's why Obi has gone where no bird has gone before and lived to tweet about it—or whatever it is that Pacific parrots do.

Sure, even Obi the goggle-wearing parrot may settle for a mere cracker every now and then, but after a bird with his talent has tasted the glory of scientific discovery, how is he supposed to get used to the taste of crumbs again?

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