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Dead medium: The Pigeon Post
From: bruces@well.com Bruce Sterling

Source(s): Washington Post; Austin American-Statesman, Thursday October 8, 1998, page A8

"2,000 homing pigeons lose their bearings, disappear"

"Homing pigeons, as the name suggests, are supposed to find their way home. But more than 2,000 of the creatures have disappeared this week and no one can explain it.

"The birds lost their way during two separate homing pigeon races held Monday. Out of 1,800 birds competing in a 200-mile race from New Market, Va., to Allentown, Pa., about 1,500 have vanished. And in a 150-mile race from western Pennsylvania to suburban Philadelphia, 700 out of 900 pigeons are missing.

"Most of the pigeons should have been back in their lofts within a few hours."

(...)

"'There is something in the air,' said Gary Moore, who was the 'liberator' for the 150 mile race, deciding when and where the birds were released. 'To lose this many is just unbelievable.'

"Was it sunspots? A UFO? The currents of El Nino?

"It's hard to come up with an answer, pigeon-race enthusiasts say, because no one knows how homing pigeons do what they do.

"Moore's theory is that the disappearance may have something to do with cellular phone activity. It's widely accepted that the pigeons use electromagnetic fields to help them navigate, and cellular phone calls might interfere with that process, he speculated.

"Most long-distance races are held on weekends, when cellular phone activity is lower. But the two races in question were postponed from Sunday to Monday because of rain.

"Sun-spots can also send the pigeons off course, but the sun activity that day was low, organizers say." (...)

(((bruces remarks: if cellphones interfere with bird navigation, we should logically have been seeing growing difficulties with all forms of bird migration, not just pigeons. And if sunspots can affect pigeons (surely a phenomenon difficult to quantify), then one wonders whether the recent cosmic magnetar blast, which detectably disturbed the earth's magnetic field, may have had a role. Could it really be that the cellphones are disturbing pigeon brains and disrupting pigeon navigation? If so, what a rare and choice example of one medium directly killing another. It's an interesting subject to ponder, next time you press a cellphone to the side of your skull.)))

Bruce Sterling (bruces@well.com)