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A Cockatoo Experiments on A Group of People And Makes A Discovery
or
(An Experiment On An Audience By a Bird In The Air Pump)

"I, dead now, make my report from the heavenly grave. For this experiment was indeed the end of me, as I suspected it might be when I embarked on my enquiry into the nature of human entertainment.
During my life, I received a great deal of attention as a speechifier and birdwit. My "Pretty Polly" or "Aye Aye Cap'n" always received a satisfying degree of acclaim. I have increasingly wished, noting the twitters and coos from my human respondents, to discover what is the ultimate in performance. And so this final show of mine, breathless, mortal, and, I modestly think, brave, is a work of artistic, scientific research. Enough talking. For my swan song I kept my silence during the task so as not to influence the reactions of my subjects. The Moon is my guide. The skull is my example. The candle cast its glow upon proceedings with the finest balance of illumination and mystery.

I selected a cross-section of homo sapiens. These included: a Natural Philosopher, male, whom I observed has a preference not for the practical but for the glamorous with regards to his locks and gown; a young couple, one male and one female (I was intrigued to observe whether the prospect of a bird being suffocated added excitement or alienation to their courtship); a man with a watch who measured the running time with such intense accuracy that I thought his face would turn blue before mine did; two girls wearing off-the-shoulder gowns as if they were attending a ball; an older man whose attention I was interested to observe was drawn more to the sobbing terror of the younger girl than the performance itself, feeding her fear with, I noted, lashings of sympathy; a boy whose contrary lack of fear and chimp-like joy at escorting me from cage to glass orb confirmed gender differences with regards to squeamishness amongst the human young; another boy whose jollity was of baboon proportions (I was tempted to offer him the opportunity to take my place so I might myself time how long this jollity survived as his supply of air reduced); and finally another fellow with long grey hair who cast himself deep in thought - I believe it would have been a service to all humanity to preserve him thus in a pickling jar as an example of "important demeanour" (I've noticed that men of a certain age and class in English society succeed in gaining much respect by appearing grave). My preliminary discovery is, from initial observation, that the human need to understand is neither more nor less powerful than the desire to be stirred.

With regards to the Experiment itself, as the air was sucked away my attention was drawn to the Philospher, Magus and Experimenter extraordinaire, my primary subject. I observed his smooth face more closely than the razor that had shaved him during his preparations. His timing was immaculate. His method was silent. His flourishes were well placed. As keenly as I observed him, he observed the other subjects, his audience. And it was at the height of my breathless investigation, at the very moment when my squawk became a death rattle, at the end of it (so this is it?) when everyone sighed or gasped or dropped, that I made my most dramatic discovery.
Yes! Now I can reveal my findings!

Firstly - humanity is much more compelled by a display of real rather than faked dying. Secondly - and most importantly - the human mind and spirit would be more compelled still by a display that defies all expectation. The ultimate experiment would be set the timer a second time, blow the air back into the air pump and find a way to bring the bird corpse back to life! For whilst humanity is both repelled and fascinated by its ability to control death, mortality still has mastery over the breed, and what an evolutionary step it would be to overturn that mastery. The mechanics of resurrection unpicked, explained and applied! Now that really would be a remarkable scientific breakthrough and truly great entertainment!

But please do not hold your breath. From what I have noted thus far, they have a long way to go before they grasp the natural (or indeed un-natural) laws of achieving such a feat, these earthbound folk."

Image of quote from Sherry's story.Click here for Sherry's story.
Image of quote from Diane's story.Click here for Diane's story.
Image of student.Click here for Student Responses.
Image of 'An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump' by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768. Click here for About the Painting.
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