Tag Archives | Communication

Teaching A Cactus The Japanese Alphabet

Could plants communicate with us, if we had the right way of listening? The wife of a Japanese researcher gives her cacti a language lesson:
The chief of research for Fuji Electronic Industries has constructed special instruments which translate the electrical output of plants into modulated sounds, giving voice to a cactus. Relying on her affinity for plants, Mrs. Hashimoto looks forward to actual conversation with her cactus...Convinced it possesses an intelligence, she is determined to teach it the Japanese alphabet.
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The Quest To Invent A Sarcasm Detector

science-sarcasm-Professor-Frink-Comic-Book-Guy-631Sarcasm levels are ever-increasing in our modern world — perhaps a century from now, communications will contain more sarcastic expressions than sincere ones. So what is the value of being tongue-in-cheek? It involves more intelligence and creativity than straight-talk, and machines cannot (yet) understand or imitate it with complete accuracy. Thus irony may be our last and best weapon in the inevitable war against the robots. Smithsonian Magazine reveals:

For the past 20 years, researchers from linguists to psychologists to neurologists have been studying our ability to perceive snarky remarks and gaining new insights into how the mind works. Studies have shown that exposure to sarcasm enhances creative problem solving, for instance.

Sarcasm detection is an essential skill if one is going to function in a modern society dripping with irony. “Our culture in particular is permeated with sarcasm,” says Katherine Rankin, a neuropsychologist at the University of California at San Francisco.

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Dolphin Whisperer Could Help Us Speak To E.T.

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Photo: Auntie Rain (CC)

Could talking to animals guide us to talking to extraterrestrials? Discovery News reports:

For 27 years, marine biologist Denise Herzing and colleagues have been regular visitors in the Atlantic Ocean home of a 200-member pod of spotted dolphins living north of the Bahama Islands.

Understanding the relationships between the members of the pod is key to unraveling what their dozens of whistles, clicks and other signals mean.

“The large goal of this project is to tell the story of what it’s like to be a dolphin,” Herzing, a researcher with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and the founder and head of the Wild Dolphin Project, told Discovery News.

[Continues at Discovery News]

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Translation Machine To Make Human-Dolphin Conversations Possible

flipperWhat secrets of the sea have dolphins been waiting to tell us? We may soon find out (hopefully not just tuna jokes). New Scientist reports:

A diver carrying a computer that tries to recognize dolphin sounds and generate responses in real time will soon attempt to communicate with wild dolphins off the coast of Florida. If the bid is successful, it will be a big step towards two-way communication between humans and dolphins.

Since the 1960s, captive dolphins have been communicating via pictures and sounds. In the 1990s, Louis Herman of the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu, Hawaii, found that bottlenose dolphins can keep track of over 100 different words. They can also respond appropriately to commands in which the same words appear in a different order, understanding the difference between “bring the surfboard to the man” and “bring the man to the surfboard”, for example.

But communication in most of these early experiments was one-way, says Denise Herzing, founder of the Wild Dolphin Project in Jupiter, Florida.

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New Brain-Control Interface Uses Thoughts To Make Phone Calls

Photo: University of California, San Diego

Photo: University of California, San Diego

After years of forgetting your friends’ numbers because they were saved on your cellphone, new technology allows you to make calls by simply thinking the phone number. Via MIT Technology Review:

Researchers in California have created a way to place a call on a cell phone using just your thoughts. Their new brain-computer interface is almost 100 percent accurate for most people after only a brief training period.

The system was developed by Tzyy-Ping Jung, a researcher at the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues. Besides acting as an ultraportable aid for severely disabled people, the system might one day have broader uses, he says. For example, it could create the ultimate hands-free experience for cell-phone users, or be used to detect when drivers or air-traffic controllers are getting drowsy by sensing lapses in concentration.

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New Bill To Kill Ham Radio?

3547988319_398f44cca3New York Republican Peter King has made national headlines in 2011 with his congressional hearings on the (dis)loyalties of Muslim-Americans. However, that is not the only trouble he has been stirring up. The media largely missed his recent introduction of House Resolution 607, which would auction off for commercial use the frequency bands used by amateur radio operators (for the purpose of funding the use of other frequency bands by the police in emergencies). The American Radio Relay League fumes:

On February 10, 2011, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, introduced H.R. 607, the “Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011,” which has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which handles telecommunications legislation).

The Bill provides for the allocation of the so-called “D-Block” of spectrum in the 700 MHz range for Public Safety use. HR 607 uniquely, provides for the reallocation of other spectrum for auction to commercial users, in order to offset the loss of revenue that would occur as the result of the allocation of the D-Block to Public Safety instead of commercial auction.

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A History Of Our Awkward Attempts To Communicate With Aliens

Valentine-Article-You-Never-Get-Possible-300x193Lightspeed Magazine has a fun rundown of humanity’s historical efforts to send space transmissions to whatever intelligent life might be out there. The whole endeavor is slightly desperate and pathetic — “The chances of an alien civilization having the means, motive, and opportunity to catch any of these messages are slim; certainly it’s not likely that humanity will last long enough to catch any return messages.” Still, it’s nice knowing that Morse code and theremin music has been beamed into the heavens.

1. The Morse Message (1962)

This audio salute, one of the first radio signals intended specifically for interstellar intelligence, was meant as a test of the new Evpatoria Planetary Radar (EPR). In November 1962, the Unique Korenberg Telescope Array transmitted the greeting towards Venus, using simple Morse Code. Given the location of Venus in November 1962, the message is even now winging its way towards Libra.

Message Content: The words “MIR,” “LENIN,” and “SSSR,” in Morse.

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Phone With ‘Human Touch’ Developed In Japan

PhoneIn case video chat wasn’t realistic enough for you. Via Brisbane Times:

Japanese researchers say they have developed a human-shaped mobile phone with a skin-like outer layer that enables users to feel closer to those on the other end.

“The mobile phone may feel like the person you are talking to,” the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) said in a press release, describing the gadget as a “revolutionary telecom medium”.

The project is a collaboration between Osaka University, the mobile telephone operator NTT DoCoMo and other institutes.

They hope to put it into commercial production within five years by adding image and voice recognition functions.

[Continues at Brisbane Times]

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Hidden Messages Woven Into Birds’ Nests

kitenestJust more evidence that non-human animal species have deeper intelligence than we give them credit for, and communicate in ways to which we are oblivious. Wired Science discusses a secret form of bird-language, which we should probably learn if we hope to foil the coming avian takeover:

The discovery of messages in raptors’ nests has raised the possibility that many bird species encode signals into these structures, with seemingly decorative flourishes actually full of meaning.

Among black kites, scraps of white plastic are used to signal territorial dominance. To other kites, the scraps are a warning sign. To humans, they hint at an unappreciated world of animal communication.

“It’s probably very common that other bird species decorate their nests in ways compatible with what we found,” said Fabrizio Sergio, a biologist at the Doñana Biological Station in Spain. “And not only birds, but fish and mammals.”

A few species, such black wheateaters and bowerbirds, are already known to use nest design in courtship displays.

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