How Dolphins Could Help Us Communicate with Aliens

If we could talk to the animals, we might gain insight into what it means to communicate with an extraterrestrial species. 

According to an estimate by the Hubble Space Telescope, there are approximately 125 billion galaxies in the universe. The Drake Equation, SETI's operational manifesto, calculates the probability that there is intelligent life beyond Earth at around 100%, and some physicists believe we'll make contact with aliens during this century. But what then?

Without a common language, a close encounter could be as aimless as an email chain in which everyone hits reply all but no one actually reads anyone else's response. (We sent “Across the Universe” across the universe. Get it? Anyone?) And whether or not you buy Stephen Hawking's evil-alien-colonizer theory, the consequences of an intergalactic miscommunication would undoubtedly be worse than annoying a few colleagues.

What's the Big Idea?

"There are many sentient species on our own planet, and that would probably be a good model to start looking at how we might communicate with extra-terrestrial species," says Denise Herzing, founder and Director of the Wild Dolphin Project. Herzing has worked for three decades documenting the daily exchanges of a community of free-ranging Spotted dolphins off the coast of the Bahamas in hopes of finding a dolphin version of the Rosetta Stone.

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