The U.S will spend more than 100 million dollars looking for signs of intelligent non-human life in the universe in the next decade.
But there is already intelligent non-human life in the universe. It is right here in our oceans, and has been reaching out to us for thousands of years.
Spectrograph image of Balaenoptera musculus (C)2007 Aguasonic Acoustics
Sperm whales see the world through sound. They send out clicks and collect the ECHOES of those clicks to form a picture of everything around them — a form of sonar technology. They can see better with these clicks than we can see with our eyes.
But there’s something else. The clicks they send out are also a form of communication. These clicks embed a code, a kind of hidden language. And this code is likely shared by other cetaceans such as dolphins and orcas. These animals have likely been sharing this communication for millions of years.
For the past 50 years marine scientists have studied sperm whale click communication from the deck of a boat. They've discovered some amazing things: Sperm whales share dialects. They transmit “click communication” in directional sound beams across great distances of open ocean. Inside these half-second-long clicks are tinier clicks. Inside those are clicks and yet smaller clicks, down to the thousandth of a second. These clicks are not random. Sperm whales can repeat these same intricately-structured click patterns in the exact same frequencies over and over again, up to 1,600 times per second.
But no scientist has been able to unlock sperm whale communication. CETI will attempt to be the first.
Using drones, artificial intelligence, and machine-learning algorithms coupled with an inventive data-collecting approach, we now have the technologies available to study and hopefully understand these animals.
Sperm whale populations have declined from roughly 1.3 million two hundred years ago to 300,000 today due to hunting and environmental disturbances.
Despite being recognized as "protected species," sperm whale hunting continues in countries such as Japan and may begin again in Iceland and others.
Marine sound pollution from military exercises and technical oil exploration blinds sperm whales and other cetaceans and destroys their communication, triggering mass beachings. Ship strikes also account for a significant number of annual sperm whale deaths.
Sperm whales have the lowest reproductive rate of any mammal; females give birth to a single calf once every four to six years.
Sperm whales are an essential part of the marine ecosystem: they minimize the effects of climate change, keep our oxygen supply intact, and increase marine life concentrations.
These animals have the largest brains that have ever been discovered, six times the size and 15 million years older than the human brain. Their brains are in many ways more complex, developed, and evolved than our own.
Animals don't grow oversize brains for no reason. CETI believes sperm whales' oversize brains are used, in part, to send and exchange a different and mostly unexplored kind of highly-detailed digital language.
By translating the foundation of sperm whale communication and promoting the incredible intelligence of these animals, we hope to help save them from extinction.
The 360 footage and audio CETI collects as data will also be used in media to bring the depth, awareness, and global importance of these animals to millions of people across the globe.
Our research may also lead to the development of “sound warning” technologies to deter whales away from freighter collisions, fossil fuel drilling sites, and military sonar exercises which are decimating sperm whale and other cetacean populations worldwide.