The Mystery of the Blue Whale Songs

(nautil.us)

40 points | by dnetesn 8 days ago

8 comments

  • Eleison23 8 days ago
    Remember when Dory reveals that she can "speak Whale" in Finding Nemo? I actually use her Whale-speaking gift when I try to communicate over a bad cell phone connection (like Google Voice VoIP). If you speak Whale, slowly and elongating all your vowels, you can be understood much better. It sounds super-goofy on this end, but trust me, if you want your message to get through, it really works!
    • toast0 8 days ago
      FYI, this type of speech modulation is generally called the Lombard effect or Lombard speech, although it usually doesn't go full Whale. If you search on Intelligibility-enhancing speech modifications: the Hurricane Challenge, you can find some interesting papers, there's a pretty deep rabbit hole there. One of the methods, SSDRC[2], specifically tries to modulate speech into that pattern. Of course, when I tried to apply it (from an earlier paper), it took quite some time to dig up their Matlab code which refused to run on my speech samples (recorded numbers, etc, for voice call verifications of phone number control). Oh well.

      [1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lombard_effect

      [2] https://deepai.org/publication/enhancing-speech-intelligibil...

    • CharlesW 8 days ago
      This is ridiculous, and also it's my favorite comment of the day, and also I'm definitely going to try it.
  • alexpotato 8 days ago
    I'm waiting for all of the advances in Neural Networks and Machine Learning to get us to the points where we can start communicating (or at least understanding) whales and dolphins.

    This also reminds me of the quote: "Talk to aliens? We can't even talk to whales!"

    • JacobThreeThree 8 days ago
      Our children are not learning enough about whales: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POi4rvN_Yts
    • robga 8 days ago
      • underlines 8 days ago
        I don't understand their approach. It sounds too buzzwordy:

        "Build on substantial data on the whales’ sounds, social lives, and behavior already obtained by the Dominica Sperm Whale Project. Create a bespoke, big data pipeline to examine the recorded data and decode it using advanced machine learning, natural language processing and data science."

        Zero shot classification without any examples? OK. Having "Behaviour" information to link to sounds? OK. But using "data science" and especially using NLP to decode whale sound? Sorry you have to be more specific, otherwise this sounds just like any other buzzword bingo.

    • devonallie 8 days ago
      We can barely talk to each other :)
    • jerrre 8 days ago
      What would be the baseline data? Don't we need some ground truth examples?
  • henriquez 8 days ago
    Maybe whales are just social mammals and the change in pitch is the whale equivalent of an accent or dialect. This could also explain why different regions vary (I’ve anecdotally observed this in crows over different geographic regions).
  • nobodyandproud 8 days ago
    Any chance that modern whale hunters use acoustic detection to find whales?

    Being more quiet or harder to detect would be noticed by intelligent creatures, nevermind the survival pressures.

  • drooby 8 days ago
    They are competitive creatures and their communication with friends must be accomplished across large distances.

    Perhaps they are using obfuscation as primitive encryption techniques to keep messages hidden to foes and understood by friends.

  • lucinda-garrret 8 days ago
    It reminds me of a star trek book:the voyage home, but that aside I believe most means of communication that is not human communication is still a mystery.
  • midoridensha 8 days ago
    They're communicating with aliens, asking them to send a probe here to eliminate humans so the planet will be safe for them again.
  • fijiaarone 8 days ago
    The whales are sad
    • pstuart 8 days ago
      They should be pissed.