Dolphins, Space, and SETI – Simone Chen

When I was a little kid I used to think about aliens, “Marsians”, extraterrestrial beings, ghosts, et cetera, a lot. As for why? To tell the truth I’m not exactly quite sure. Maybe it was because I was extremely gullible and believed all the weird frightening stories and movies that I heard and watched. Maybe it was because I had nothing better to do other than let my imagination run wild. Or maybe it was because of all the news about UFOs and what not circulating around in the air. Well either way I’d have to say I went through an “alien phase”, much similar to my Pokemon phase (and I think most of you out there also experienced the same thing, with Pokemon!), then I got tired of it and never really thought much about it since.

So during the Wednesday lecture, Richard Clar rekindled my mild fascination towards space and extraterrestrial life. His projects were, indeed, unique. When I first saw the picture of the computer generated dolphin projected upon the screen I never would have seen its connection with space, let alone SETI. But to think that communication, especially with outer space, is an art all by itself actually isn’t hard. The means we use to communicate amongst ourselves is already unique and diverse. We use colorful e-mails, text messages filled with various contractions and symbols, photographs and tons of other “art forms”. Hence it is perfectly reasonable to apply art to the methods we use in search of alien life forms.  I have to say, though, that choosing the dolphin to act as our messenger, instead of say an eagle or baboon, is really clever. For one, the dolphin is one of the more intelligent animals on earth. For another, we assume that aliens must reside in a habitat that has water (as H2O is essential to life) and dolphins live in water. So what could be a better representative from our planet other than our smart and friendly dolphin?  However, I think it is a shame that the “space dolphins” are only designed to transmit messages and not receive them. How will we know whether our message has been received by “ET”? Hopefully future proposals will allow these dolphins to do more than just click into the vast solar system. While I surfed around Google for a picture of dolphins in space, I stumbled across another project involving space and dolphins. Created by Doug Michels, Blue Star is designed to be the “first think tank in space, a research lab dedicated to the study of mind’s newly expanded horizons, to the investigation of thought liberated from earth’s gravitational ties.”


The space station would support a 250 foot diameter water sphere (ultrasonically stabilized) within a glass shell, as well as a crew of dolphins amongst many other things. It would be home to artists and scientists interested in human-dolphins interaction and communication. What’s even more interesting is that “according to the proposed design, the marine mammals’ ultrasonic emissions would be used to program the central computer”. Although it doesn’t explain how it would work, it sure sounds like some high-tech stuff.

A promotional video for the project can be found here:



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