September 13, 2020 9:00 pm

Wanna Talk to Animals? Neil deGrasse Tyson Explores How We Communicate with Other Species

Will we ever be able to talk to animals? You know, like Dr. Dolittle? I guess a better question would be: How close are we to being able to talk to animals? On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice are exploring interspecies communications with Diana Reiss, PhD, Cognitive Psychology Professor and Marine Mammal Scientist.

A dolphin named Foster uses a “touch” screen to communicate. Credit Diana Reiss.

Foster the Dolphin using a “touch” screen to communicate. Image Courtesy of Diana Reiss.

So, how far along are we in chatting up other species? Diana fills us in on what it takes to establish lines of communication. Find out why we have to define what communication is before we do anything. You’ll learn how Diana came to study dolphins and how they communicate. We compare a human’s brain to a dolphin’s brain. Diana also tells us why using science to create change is an important aspect of what she does.

We discuss the documentary The Cove and protecting the lives of fellow mammals. Then, we dive into the film Arrival. Diana tells us why establishing a common knowledge is the first step in communicating with other species, and, why imitation can be a very useful tool. She shares a wonderful story about her first encounter with a dolphin mind.

We explore the non-verbal communication that’s happening between species. Diana shares details about the underwater keyboard and “touch” screen she helped create that lets us communicate with dolphins. We also explore how a species communicates within itself. How do swarms of fish communicate with each other to avoid predators? Do dolphins have different “dialects” depending on geography or is it a universal language throughout the world’s waters?

Lastly, we ponder if we’ll ever be able to fully comprehend the ways animals communicate with each other. Are animals communicating so complexly that the human mind is incapable of understanding? If that’s the case, maybe our Dr. Dolittle dreams are farther off than we thought.

Please join us tomorrow for Cosmic Queries – Interspecies Communication at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re a StarTalk+ Patron you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
– Ian Mullen

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