These researchers managed to talk with a whale... but aim at aliens

A team of American scientists have managed to have a conversation with a whale and hope to one day do so with aliens.

These researchers managed to talk with a whale... but aim at aliens

A team of American scientists have managed to have a conversation with a whale and hope to one day do so with aliens.

First things first: what do whale scientists and alien hunters have in common? A priori, none. And yet, the answer goes much deeper than you can imagine! In a study published in the very serious peer-reviewed journal PeerJ, scientists from UC Davis, the Alaska Whale Foundation and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) joined forces with one goal: to communicate with the whales.

A successful experiment since this team of researchers managed to converse for twenty minutes with a humpback whale, called Twain, in its own language. Specifically, scientists sailed off the coast of Alaska and broadcast a sound called a “contact call” into the ocean. A contact call that can be compared to a human "hello", used by the cetaceans in question to find their way around each other and know where individuals are, summarizes Brenda McCowan, professor at the UC School of Veterinary Medicine Davis, to the American site Business Insider, which relays the study.

After the signal was broadcast, the humpback whale named Twain came swimming near the boat. Over the next twenty minutes, the scientists made the same contact call 36 times at different intervals, and Twain responded each time, even closely adhering to the researchers' intervals: "If they waited 10 seconds before playing the signal to Twain, she also waited 10 seconds before responding, Brenda McCowan said. "This type of interval correspondence suggests that Twain was participating in an intentional exchange." For this team, this is "the first communicative exchange between humans and humpback whales in the 'language' of the humpback whale", rejoiced the scientist in a press release.

But then, what connection with extraterrestrials? It turns out that Twain's behavior might be similar to the way aliens might seek to make contact with us, said Laurance Doyle, a senior researcher at the SETI Institute and co-author of the study. "An important hypothesis of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is that extraterrestrials will be interested in contact and will therefore target human receptors," much like how Twain responded to scientists' call for contact, added the researcher in a press release.

SETI members say they are collaborating with whale and animal experts from UC Davis and the Alaska Whale Foundation to create smart filters to help in their search for extraterrestrial intelligence. By perfecting these smart filters, scientists could use them to identify intelligent signals from space in an effort to make first contact with an extraterrestrial entity.

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