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MAGAZINE : Intelligence

Man: the Most Intelligent Creature on Earth?
...continued from page 1

Dolphin techniques for the blind

In 1967, acoustics expert Wayne Batteau developed a technique based on ultrasounds to communicate with domesticated dolphins. At the origin of the study, the US Navy decided to classify the results as top secret! In his experiments conducted with Professor Louis Herman in Hawaii, the dolphins emitted low frequency sounds to the researchers, suggesting that the dolphins perceived humans to be too slow to comprehend. Dolphins, as it seems, were not yet ready to communicate with human in the same way that they would with other dolphins.

Perhaps dolphins can meet their match in those humans capable of echolocation, often used by the blind in order to perceive the locations of objects, by analysing the reverberations projected off the clicking noises they make. An American teenager, Ben Underwood, blind since he was two years old, can accurately identify objects from the clicking noises he makes with his tongue. Is that a glass on the table? Ben can 'see' it. He can navigate safely through the street, and even handily beat a person with sight in a game of foosball. Ben uses this technique on land in the same way that dolphins do underwater.

The general approach in the research of dolphin intelligence has been criticised in that it has been designed to find the lower limits of dolphin intelligence, while LeVasseur believes that not enough has been done to explore the upper limits of what dolphins can think. Are we maybe scared to discover there may be a more intelligent species than us?


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