One, two, three, four, many

“A squire was determined to shoot a crow which made its nest in the watch-tower
of his estate. Repeatedly he had tried to surprise the crow, but in vain; at the
approach of man the crow would leave its nest. From a distant tree it would
watchfully wait until the man had left the tower and then return to its nest. One
day the squire hit upon a ruse: two men entered the tower, one remained within,
the other came out and went away, but the bird was not deceived; it kept away
until the man within came out. The experiment was repeated in the succeeding
days with two, three, then four men. Yet without success. Finally, five men were
sent: as before, all entered the tower, and one remained while the other four came
out and went away. Here the crow lost count. Unable to distinguish between four
and five it promptly returned to its nest” (Tobias Dantzig’s “Number and the Language of Science”)

Categories: Episteme

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