A major question, developed worldwide during the end of the past century was: How can animals, especially cetaceans, live such seemingly complex lives, using so few signals, signs, or symbols? Was there, in actuality, another, perhaps independent communication system within Nature, that we hadn’t noticed mainly because of our own principal human communications?
A decade ago, such an independent communication system was demonstrated by two humpback whales under investigation by Ceta Research in Trinity, Newfoundland. It has since been found in other animals but only under low stress conditions. Under stress, organisms tend to revert to a dominant use of signals, and to Darwinian struggles for survival. But by discovering an organism with markedly reduced needs, one may usually find Rhythm Based Communication (RBC)
But How does it work?
In order to have this new type of communication, biological rhythms must be shared between two organisms so that synchronization occurs. After synchronization, Rhythm based communication is made possible by an organisms perception of lateness relative to on timeness. That is, the organisms, through synchronization, arrive at a common rhythm, and can then, within this synchronized rhythm, transmit and receive messages using combinations of ON-TIME, LATE, OFF-TIME and EARLY messages. Such information flow is Rhythm Based Communication (RBC).
Imagine two parallel “arrows” of conventional time, each associated with one of two communicating organisms, A and B. Now picture two turning wheels with their centres on the “arrows” of time, with different speeds of rotation (alpha rhythms)
To arrive at synchronization, organism A makes a signal in any time window of a single rotation, but only when the window reaches the vertical or “NOW-axis”
Organism A then repeats this action on the next one or more complete cycles of its wheel, creating a pulsating rhythm always at the same position on its rotation (alpha concept)
The alpha concept can be confirmed by organism B, if it sends a signal which also occurs in a synchronous time window centred on the NOW-axis of any of its subsequent rotations
This sending of a synchronous signal defines the concept of On Timeness (or zero lateness).
Now that the organisms are synchronized, they can transmit and receive messages using combinations of ON-TIME, LATE, OFF-TIME and EARLY messages
If for a humpback whale we use 60 sec as the alpha rhythm then:
On Time (a) would be from 58 to 02 sec, centred at 12 o’clock, on a clock face.
Late (b) would then be 13-17 sec, centred at 3 o’clock.
Off Time (c) would be 28-32 sec, centred at 6 o’clock,
Early (d) would be 43-47 sec centred at 9 o’clock.
Experimentation by Ceta Research has shown that following messages now appear to be identical for some marine mammals, terrestrial mammals and seabirds.
1. Synchronization: Establishing the On Time concept of a demonstrated rhythm.
2. A greeting or “passkey”: Saying hello is done using an Off Time – Off Time – On Time message
3. A reciprocal greeting: Rhythmic mimicry via a return of the hello message is a sign of lowering biological stress and readiness to communicate.
4. A reciprocal overlapping greeting: This happens when #3 overlaps the timing of #2; occurring most often after repeated reciprocal greetings between the same two organisms.
5. The declarative (i.e. a simple noun): Facts are stated as combinations of Late or Early, Off Time or On Time. An example from Ceta Research experiments would be Late – On Time – Late – Early to represent “A Location”
6. The interrogative: Questions are stated as rhythmic, “time-symmetric,” signals, mirror images of the declarative; an example would be Early – On Time – Early – Late to represent “Location?” or “Are you going to Location”?” This is a reversal of the circular direction of RBT.
7. The affirmative (Yes): A double signal On Time
8. The negative (No): A double signal Off Time .
9. A farewell: A rhythmic, opposite phase message, to the greeting of #2 above. The rhythmic coding is On Time – On Time – Off Time This is commonly mimicked by the second organism during departure.
10. Time Compression: A double signal in a single rotation window thereby shortening a message by one RBT revolution an example would be a greeting with a double signal Off Time followed by an On Time signal. Time compression apparently corresponds to the emotion of joy and is invariably followed by a breach for some cetaceans.
Experimentation by Ceta Research on human-animal RBC rhythms show that alpha rhythms differ by species and situation, ranging from 10 sec for young fox kits to 120 sec for fin whales.
Ceta Research believe that RBC could work for all animals (and in fact for all life). Should this be the case, then a universal greeting is feasible. A group of living organisms should be able to send and receive messages, using RBT, as if they were physically together, independent of spatial separation. Also larger vocabularies could be expected and body language should play an extensive role in communication.
It is not only important WHAT the organism does, but perhaps even more important WHEN the organism does something.