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A Tribute To The Proud And Peaceful Pigeon

Robert Claypool
flickr creative commons

B. F. Skinner thought pigeons were so smart they could be used to guide missiles during World War II. He proposed a system in which pigeons would essentially pilot a missile. Skinner said pigeons could be trained to peck at a screen to adjust the trajectory of the missile toward its target. Project Pigeon was funded but never used.

In 2013, New York conceptual artist Duke Reilly trained half his flock of pigeons to carry contraband cigars from Cuba to Florida and the other half to carry tiny video cameras documenting the smuggling flight of their comrades.

Another group of researchers trained pigeons to reliably distinguish between the paintings of Picasso and Monet, even if they had never seen a particular painting before.

This hour, everything you ever wanted to know about pigeons but were afraid to ask.


Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe, Jonathan McNicol, and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired November 12, 2013.

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Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.
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