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Nature & Environment

Scientists have conversation with a whale in world-first experiment

By T.K. Randall
December 19, 2023 · Comment icon 10 comments
A humpback whale underwater.
The whale, known as 'Twain', was quite talkative. Image Credit: Pixabay / 12019
The remarkable feat could help to pave the way toward communicating with aliens in the event of first contact.
The breakthrough, which marks the first time anyone has succeeded in having a conversation with a whale in the animal's own language, was achieved by a team of researchers comprised of experts from UC Davis, the Alaska Whale Foundation and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

Alien hunters have long had an interest in deciphering whale communication because it is perhaps the closest we can get to learning how to understand and speak to intelligent extraterrestrials.

To initiate contact, the team used underwater speakers to play a "contact call" (similar to a human greeting) from a boat in Alaska.

Before long, a humpback whale nicknamed 'Twain' had arrived on the scene.
Over the course of 20 minutes, the team repeatedly played back the contact call at various intervals and Twain would respond with a reciprocal call that closely matched the timing of the intervals.

"We believe this is the first such communicative exchange between humans and humpback whales in the humpback 'language'," said study lead author Dr. Brenda McCowan of UC Davis.

Not only was the experiment a major step forward in our efforts to communicate with whales, it has also helped scientists to develop filters that could be applied to potential extraterrestrial signals.

"Because of current limitations on technology, an important assumption of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is that extraterrestrials will be interested in making contact and so target human receivers," said study co-author Dr. Laurance Doyle of the SETI Insitute.

"This important assumption is certainly supported by the behavior of humpback whales."

Source: Science Alert | Comments (10)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Splendor Solis 5 months ago
I think this story is interesting enough without having to drag some alien connection into it. Actually having a conversation with a whale?? This is incredible. I want to know more about it. Was this just the same thing we can do with our dog or cat, where we say something and they respond with noises, we don't know what they're saying, but they're responding? Or can we decipher what the whale is trying to say? Leave the aliens out of this. Let's wait until we can actually prove aliens exist--and how they communicate before we try to link a whale's language to aliens.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Skulduggery 5 months ago
It sounds to me like this is an interaction with a whale, not what we would deem an actual conversation, although I'm sure it could loosely be considered one. I agree with the post above. Leave aliens out of this.
Comment icon #3 Posted by BadChadB33 5 months ago
Spock would like to have a word about communicating with humpback whales.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Jon the frog 5 months ago
You can do the same with a broad range of animals...I'm doing the same with chickadees, coyotes,pileated woodpecker, Canada geese... it's more about trolling them than making a real conversation.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Cho Jinn 5 months ago
Leave the whales alone.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Nicolette 5 months ago
Why would you call playing recordings of whales at it a conversation? This is just the same thing as meowing at your cat.
Comment icon #7 Posted by smokeycat 5 months ago
 
Comment icon #8 Posted by Desertrat56 5 months ago
After reaading the article I suspect that whale went away thinking humans are idiots.   Hello!   Hello!  Hello!...
Comment icon #9 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 5 months ago
This connection goes back a long way. In his 1980 TV series, "Cosmos," Carl Sagan made the point that if we are to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligences we could start by training to communicate with other, non-human, terrestrial intelligences and he specified whales.  
Comment icon #10 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 5 months ago
I suspect that they already knew that. As Douglas Adams said:  


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