A mother sperm whale and her calf off the coast of Mauritius. The calf has remoras attached to its body.
A mother sperm whale and her calf off the coast of Mauritius. The calf has remoras attached to its body.

Voices from the Deep with Dr. Michelle Fournet and Dr. Ellen Garland

Mother_and_baby_sperm_whale.jpg: Gabriel Barathieuderivative work: Tomer T, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

Can whales help us understand aliens? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice explore how whales can help us understand animal language with marine biologist, Dr. Ellen Garland, and marine ecologist, Dr. Michelle Fournet. What are the whales saying to each other?

We talk about the new documentary film Fathom featuring our two scientists detailing their work on decoding the language of whales. Can they crack the code? Find out how starting small could help tackle a whale of a mystery. Why do whales talk to each other? Discover whale migration and how they navigate the seas without GPS. Can whales detect the difference in the gravitational tug of the Earth? Is there any way that Dr. Doolittle could be a documentary? Does figuring out how to talk to animals mean we should talk to them?

How does verbal communication work under water? Is there a better way to communicate? How do animals produce sound? Could we use whales as our first attempt to learn another species’ language or learn… an alien language? How do you decipher a phrase or a word? We explore sound frequency underwater and what a shame it is that we haven’t decoded any other animal’s language yet. Will there ever be a day when we can talk to animals?

How does ocean noise pollution impact whale communication? What’s the coolest means of communication in the animal kingdom? Do animals have the same language centers in their brains that we do? If we communicated with whales, wouldn’t it freak them out? We break down the goals of Garland and Fournet’s studies featured in Fathom and how they go about capturing these complex vocal displays. All that, plus, find out if there’s a possibility for the existence of mer-people and hear Chuck moan like Dory in Finding Nemo.

Thanks to our Patrons blufor, Timothy Dalby, Mick Mowchenko, Bobby Penney, Jason, Brian Wright, human_h, Michael Hewitt, Zach Hicks, and Hschrull1 for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

In This Episode

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