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

Cosmic Queries – Interspecies Communication

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

Wanna talk to animals? On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice are answering fan-submitted Cosmic Queries on interspecies communication with Diana Reiss, PhD, Cognitive Psychology Professor and Marine Mammal Scientist. 

Is it possible to talk to animals? We’re here to find out. Diana tells us about her recent work that looks to use new technologies to bridge the gap between communicating with other species. You’ll learn why the first step is defining what communication means. What makes something a language? Diana fills us in on her background researching dolphins, and we compare a dolphin’s brain to a human’s brain. 

We discuss the film The Cove and the importance of using science to raise awareness. Then, we dive into the film Arrival and how it demonstrates appropriate steps to establish communication with another species. Diana tells us why establishing a common knowledge is vital. Then, we ask, would atoms and molecules look the same to everyone in the universe?

Explore why imitation can be a vital tool to help start communicating. Diana gives us insight into her first encounter with a dolphin mind. We discuss non-verbal forms of communication and how species communicate with themselves. Diana also tells us about the underwater keyboard and “touch” screen created for communicating with dolphins or, as Chuck calls it, the giant iPad for dolphins. 

We investigate if animals have different “dialects” based on their geographic location. Lastly, can math be used as a universal language? All that, plus, we ponder if we’ll ever be able to fully understand animal communication. 

Thanks to our Patrons Caralee Wahab, Tracy S. Skrabut, Ivan Perez, Joshua Torres, Garrett Jay, Leon Galante, Tyler Miller, and Pat Mallon for supporting us this week.

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

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:

“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

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