Talking with dolphins! That was the vision of the 60’s scientist Dr John C Lilly, pictured by Life magazine in 1961 in his laboratory with a microphone pressed against the blowhole of a young dolphin called Elvar.
Best known for inventing the flotation tank, Lilly also had a huge passion for dolphins. He wrote 5 books on the mammals and dreamed of one day creating a common language to use to converse with them. Lilly’s tireless work to teach dolphins human speech was unsuccessful but thanks to new experiments we may soon be able to actually talk with dolphins!
Denise Herzing, at the Wild Dolphin Project in Florida, and Thad Starner, an artificial intelligence expert at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, have been working on a system of communication.
Later this year, divers will slip into the waters off the coast of Florida wearing an ultra-modern device that can listen to and respond to wild dolphins by producing its own noises for words such as “seaweed”.
If all goes well and the dolphins pick up the new language, the next step just might approach a basic conversation!
This new language will open up a window into the dolphins private world, and through it scientists will be able to discover how, and why, they talk to one another. Exciting times and a huge step forward in the understanding and conservation of these intelligent creatures. Watch this space!
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