Dolphin Dictionary

dolphin chatterThe fictional Dr. Dolittle may soon have some very real competition, as we inch enticingly closer to being able to communicate with animals.

In an important breakthrough in deciphering dolphin language, researchers Jack Kassewitz & John Stuart Reid, associated with the SpeakDolphin project, have developed a means to visualize the high definition sonic imprints that dolphin sounds make in water. The resulting CymaGlyphs, as the images have been named, are reproducible patterns that the scientists believe will form the basis of a dictionary, with each pattern being a visual representation of a word within the dolphin vocabulary.

Underwater sound travels not in waves, but rather in expanding bubbles and beams. At the 20—20,000 Hertz frequency range audible to humans, the sound-bubble form dominates;   above 20,000 Hertz the shape of sound becomes more of a cone-shaped beam. CymaGlyphs are created by intersecting these sound beams with a membrane that the vibrations make an imprint upon, revealing an intricate architectures within the sound.   These fine details can then be captured on camera.

CymaGlyph example illustration

The research team has planned a series of experiments to record the sounds of dolphins targeting a range of objects to verify that the same sound is always repeated for the same object. Ultimately, it’s believed that this will allow them to compile a dolphin dictionary.

So given the chance, what would you chat about with Flipper?

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