The University of Southampton
Engineering and the Environment

Research project: Do dolphins think nonlinearly?

Currently Active: 
Yes

Research Project

Project Overview

Professor Leighton with a dolphin
Professor Leighton with a dolphin

In 2000 Professor Leighton saw BBC footage of dolphins hunting with bubble nets. He was struck by how odd this was, because no manmade sonar could detect fish in bubble nets, and the best manmade sonar was more powerful than the best dolphin sonar. So either the dolphins were blinding their spectacular sonar system when producing bubble nets to hunt, or they were doing something that humans had not thought of.

 

Orca
Orca

He came up with two possibilities (called TWIPS and BiaPSS), both of which worked, and both relied on the dolphins sending out pairs of pulses and mentally adding and subtracting the echoes from those pairs. In his first method, the two pulses in the pair were identical except that they differed in phase (click here, then press the button to request the paper detailing this). In his second method, the two pulses in the pair were identical except that they differed in amplitude (click here, then press the button to request the paper detailing this).

TWIPS stands for TWin Inverted Pulse Sonar, and BiaPSS stands for Biased Pulse Summation Sonar.   

Bubbles close to shores hide mines
Bubbles close to shores hide mines

Why does this matter? In addition to providing interesting speculation on dolphins, both techniques suggested turned out to provide the only manmade sonars in the world capable of detecting targets in bubbly water. This matters because in conflict sea mines can be hidden in bubbly water, such as that which occurs close to shores, where breaking waves generate many bubbles.

That means that ships are deterred from approaching ports even if there is a suspicion of a mine, and divers or dolphins are sent out to look for them - dangerous work. After the conflict is over, invisible mines persist in the very coastal waters used by merchant shipping and aid conveys to help rebuild an area, and by the populace and visitors for their recreation. It is vital we have a technology that can find these mines so that they can be disposed of before they do harm.

After the successful demonstration of TWIPS and BiaPSS, the authors applied the same principles to radar. For more information on the results click here

Just for fun

In the course of his investigations Professor Leighton came across footage of dolphins blowing bubble rings - perhaps these were their toys? Footage is available here. He decided to work out how they did it - click here for a movie.

For more information on bubble acoustics click here.

Webs, blogs, and press material on this story: 

 

From 2012:  Do dolphins think nonlinearly?

33rd Square (19 July 2012)  web and pdf 

Chromographics Institute (19 July 2012)  web and pdf 

Discovery News (17 July 2012)  web and pdf 

Earth in Transition (18 July 2012) web and pdf

Earth Times (18 July 2012) web and pdf

Engineering and the Environment (Southampton) (18 July 2012)  web and pdf 

Fast Company (18 July 2012)  web and pdf

Frog Heart(24 July 2012)  web and pdf 

Gen Z Buzz (19 July 2012)  web and pdf 

Global Post (19 July 2012)  web and pdf 

Green Retreat (18 July 2012)  web and pdf 

International Science Times (19 July 2012) web and pdf

Math DL (18 July 2012)  web and pdf 

Neatorama (18 July 2012)  web and pdf 

New Scientist (18 July 2012)  web and pdf 

No artificial (18 July 2012)  web and pdf

Physics World (19 July 2012)  web and pdf 

Real Clear Science (18 July 2012)  web and pdf

Red Orbit (18 July 2012)  web and pdf

Science Daily (18 July 2012) web and pdf

Science News (19 July 2012) web and pdf

From 2010: Invention of world's first sonar that can detect objects in bubbly water

Biomedicine (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

California News (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Care2 (November17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Chauthi Duniya (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

DailyTech  (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Dive Photo Guide (December 10 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

E Science News (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

EU Science News (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

EurekAlert (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Facebook page of Mengyang Zhu (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

First Science (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Fishnews EU (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

GeoGarage (December 9 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Go Green (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Green Buzz (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Green MSN (November 19 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Grind TV (November 21 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Impact Lab (November 19 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

India Talkies (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

India Talkies Follow up (November 19 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

India Com (November 19 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

India Interacts (November 19 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Indian Mirror (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Inventor Spot (November 19 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Lab Net (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Live Science (December 8 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

National Oceanography Centre (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Naval Technology (February 28 2011) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Nerve In (November 19 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

News Release Southampton University (November 17 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

One India News (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Paperblog Com (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Phys Org (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Physics News (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Quantum Times (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

R&D Magazine (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

ROV World (November 17 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Science and Technology Report (November 18 2010) web (or pdf if web is inaccessible)

Science Blog (November 17 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Science Codex (November 17 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Science Daily (November 17 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Science News (November 17 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Science News World (July 28? 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Sify News (November 18 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Swell Watch (November 21 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Thaindian News (November 19 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

The Engineer (November 17 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

The Stochastic Scientist (November 19 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Top News (November 18 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Tree Hugger (November 19 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Truth Dive (November 18 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Two Circles (November 19 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

UFO Casebook (November 18 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Underwater Times (November 17 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Yahoo News (November 18 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

YReach (November 19 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

Znanost (November 19 2011): web (or pdf if web inaccessible)

 

 From 2004: Nonlinear propagation in bubbly water

Press Release (June 21 2004) 

Royal Society Webpage

Related research groups

Acoustics Group

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