While I often write about geeky things that are designed purely for entertainment (like Star Trek porn), sometimes, a science-related story comes along that’s just too good (and nerdy!) to pass up. That happened today, when I came across the news that a biologist has been developing an interspecies language that allows her to communicate with dolphins. That’s right – now we can actually speak (albeit in a rudimentary way) with gay sharks/the majestic creatures you may or may not have scrawled in your Lisa Frank notebook in grade school.
Many studies have shown that dolphins can understand human vocabulary and syntax. The problem is that dolphins can’t respond in kind: They simply aren’t able to make the sounds required to speak our languages. [Biologist Denise] Herzing wanted to change that. So she set out to construct a shared language with dolphins, using a synthesizer to create a vocabulary both species could pronounce. And it worked better than she’d ever hoped.
It’s pretty simple, actually – and at the moment, limited to the ability to identify and ask for specific objects (that is, we’re not asking them about their philosophies on life yet), but it’s an amazing start – a shared vocabulary, as Annalee Newitz puts it.
The geekiest part of the article has got to be the fact that Herzing apparently sees implications for using this method to communicate with extraterrestrials. Now, surely that’s more impressive than a computer who can kick human ass at Jeopardy (although, in fairness, that’s pretty cool too).
If you’ve had enough of the heady stuff, I have a couple of game-related links that are more than worth a click through. If you’ve ever tried to get a parent/loved one who has never picked up a controller before to play videogames, you will surely enjoy this collection of videos, wherein Game Informer editor Dan Rykert sat his (hilarious) father in front of a collection of recent games and recorded his reactions. It’s pure, sweet comedy gold.
Finally, games journalist (and fellow citizen of Cambridge!) Rob Zacny wrote a fantastic, endearing piece about the lesbian couple in The Last Express, a classic adventure game. Though written through the perspective of a presumably straight dude, with mostly (again, presumably) straight males commenting, it’s a truly well-written examination that’s coming from someone who totally “gets it” in regards to representation:
So many gay characters across all media are defined by their sexuality, and it is the catalyst for almost all their conflicts. But Mechner never stoops to making Rebecca and Sophie simply “the lesbian couple,” or using their story for titillation. He doesn’t rely on clichés. He places the issues of their sexual orientation in a complicated context of class and character.
It’s powerful stuff, and well worth a read.