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First-ever chat between humans and humpback whales paves the way for extraterrestrial interactions

The scientists not only had a non-human intelligence communication but also deduced an important assumption as a result.

First-ever chat between humans and humpback whales paves the way for extraterrestrial interactions
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Andre Estevez, SETI Institute

Imagine having the ability to communicate with animals like Dr.Dolittle. Wouldn't it be interesting to read their minds and know what they think about us humans? Recently, some researchers have found a way to communicate with humpback whales and it was the first-ever encounter of its kind. So far, studies have only identified how the whales communicate with each other but as per the press release by SETI, these researchers made human-whale interaction possible last December. The Whale-SETI team comprised experts from the SETI Institute, the University of California Davis and the Alaska Whale Foundation whose united effort brought about a surprising inference.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Andre Estevez
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Andre Estevez

The Whale-SETI team's prime purpose in studying the Alaskan humpback whale communication systems was to develop intelligence filters that could pioneer extraterrestrial intelligence searches. Dr. Brenda McCowan from U.C. Davis, the lead author of this experiment's report, said, "We believe this is the first such communicative exchange between humans and humpback whales in the humpback 'language.'" Dr. Fred Sharpe of the Alaska Whale Foundation who co-authored this report said, "Humpback whales are extremely intelligent, have complex social systems, make tools - nets out of bubbles to catch fish - and communicate extensively with both songs and social calls."


The report said that when the researchers played a previously recorded "contact call" of the humpbacks with the help of an underwater speaker, a humpback whale named Twain responded. The "greeting signal" was recognized by Twain causing it to get closer to the team's boat and circle around. The scientists interpret Twain's behavior as that of a whale conversation. The human-whale interaction went on for 20 minutes with Twain responding to every recorded call. Dr. Laurance Doyle from the SETI Institute, who co-authored the report, said, "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. This important assumption is certainly supported by the behavior of humpback whales." 


The Alaskan humpback whale helped the researchers to pave the way for extraterrestrial communications. So, similar to these aquatic animals, scientists are expecting aliens to respond to humans too when prompted in the right way. The researchers compare this study to that of studying Antarctica as a proxy for Mars. The Whale-SETI is gradually making progress from studying intelligent, terrestrial, non-human communication systems to developing advanced systems that can identify and receive extraterrestrial signals. 

As per the press release, the experts are expecting to utilize "the mathematics of information theory" to know how complex such non-human intelligence communications can be. With the success of this humpback whale interaction study, they deduced that "rule structure embedded in a received message" might be the way to get a response from extraterrestrials. The Whale-SETI team which also included experts in animal intelligence, humpback whale song analysis and photography and behavior of humpback whales is expecting to release a second report. This report will speak about "the non-audio communicative behavior of humpback whales - bubble rings made in the presence of (and possibly for) humans."

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