In an unprecedented encounter, a research team succeeded in having a “conversation” with a humpback whale named Twain.
The team, known as Whale-SETI, is researching humpback whale communication systems, with the aim of developing intelligence filters for the search for extraterrestrial life.
How to have a conversation with a Pisces
Using a recorded humpback whale “contact” call played at sea through an underwater speaker, the scientists were amazed as Twain approached and circled their boat, responding in a conversational manner to the whale's “greeting signal.”
Throughout the 20-minute exchange, Twain continually matched the time interval differences between each play call.
Details of this extraordinary meeting can be found in the latest issue of the magazine Per J MagazineTitled “Interactive Bioacoustic Play as a Tool for Revealing and Exploring Non-Human Intelligence: ‘Talking’ with the Alaskan Humpback Whale.”
Lead author Dr. Brenda McCowan from the University of California, Davis, explains the importance of this conversation with whales: “We believe this is the first communicative exchange of its kind between humans and humpback whales in the humpback ‘language’.”
Dr. Fred Sharp of the Alaska Whale Foundation also emphasizes the intelligence of humpback whales, highlighting their abilities to engage in complex social systems, create tools such as bubble nets to catch fish, and communicate extensively through songs and social calls.
Whales and extraterrestrial intelligence
The behavior observed in humpback whales supports an important assumption in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Dr. Lawrence Doyle of the SETI Institute is another co-author of this paper.
“Because of current limitations in technology, an important assumption for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is that aliens would be interested in making contact and thus target human receivers,” he explains. “This important assumption is certainly supported by the behavior of humpback whales.”
Drawing parallels with the study of Antarctica as a surrogate for Mars, the Whale-SETI team is using their findings from studying intelligent, terrestrial, and non-human communication systems to develop filters that can be applied to any potential extraterrestrial signals received.
Implications and future research
The team will employ information theory mathematics to determine the complexity of communication, such as the rule structure embedded in the received message.
In addition to the lead researchers, Dr. Josie Hubbard, Lisa Walker, and Judy Frediani, who specialize in animal intelligence, humpback whale song analysis, and the photography and behavior of humpback whales, respectively, are also co-authors of the paper.
The Whale-SETI team is currently preparing a second paper on the non-vocal communicative behavior of humpback whales, with a particular focus on bubble rings made in the presence of (and perhaps for) humans.
The authors would like to acknowledge Templeton Foundation's Diverse Intelligences Program For their generous financial support in conducting this pioneering research.
More about Whale-SETI
As discussed above, Whale-SETI, short for Whale Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, represents a revolutionary step in understanding marine mammals, especially whales.
This project combines the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with marine biology, with the goal of decoding whale communications. It works under the premise that whale sounds contain complex, intelligent messages similar to languages used by humans or perhaps extraterrestrials.
Technology and methodology of Pisces conversation
At the heart of Whale-SETI is advanced technology. Researchers use advanced hydrophones and artificial intelligence algorithms to record and analyze whale sounds.
The AI, trained on large data sets on whale calls and human languages, looks for patterns and structures that could indicate language-like properties.
This method not only helps decipher the complexity of whale communication, but also enhances our understanding of the evolution of language in intelligent species.
Discoveries and insights
Whale-SETI has already made important discoveries. Researchers have identified some recurring patterns and variations in whale songs that indicate a level of intentional communication.
These patterns vary between different whale species, suggesting distinct “dialects” or “languages.”
This discovery challenges our understanding of non-human intelligence and communication, and opens new horizons in both marine biology and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
The effects of Pisces conversation on the future
The implications of Whale-SETI are wide-ranging. It not only enriches our understanding of marine life, but also provides insight into the evolution of communication and intelligence.
By studying the complexities of communication between whales, scientists hope to develop better strategies for marine conservation.
In addition, the project offers a unique perspective in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, suggesting that understanding non-human communication on Earth could be key to recognizing and interpreting signals from other intelligent life forms in the universe.
In short, Whale-SETI is a beacon of interdisciplinary research, integrating marine biology with linguistics and astrobiology. Her approach to understanding communication with whales opens new horizons in the study of intelligent life, both on Earth and beyond.
This project not only deepens our relationship with the marine world, but also broadens the horizons of our search for intelligence in the universe.
Like what I read? Subscribe to our newsletter to get engaging articles, exclusive content and latest updates.
Visit us at EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and Earth.com.
“Typical beer advocate. Future teen idol. Unapologetic tv practitioner. Music trailblazer.”