Friday, September 22, 2006

aquatic apes & ultrasound

the motel in Logan had a TV. and around 9pm there was a cable show with a man named Jones who has spent a lot of time with dolphins. some of the show he spent talking about dolphin sonar and trying out these custom-made dolphin speak-and-spell devices. but he was quick to confess that we don’t really know what the whistles and chirps mean, so it was kind of like releasing a big praying mantis on the typewriter keys. that is, Jones was the mantis. and however nimble, the mantis doesn’t know QWERTY. fortunately dolphins are non-judgmental and they seemed to appreciate his effort and that he wasn’t blasting them with naval sonar. they even chased a hammerhead shark away from him.

you know, there’s a hypothesis, a Rodney Dangerfield among theories, about people coming from a race of swamp apes. this aquatic ape hypothesis is based on a lot of pretty disparate observations about how people nowadays have a “diving reflex,” enjoy beachcombing, and sometimes turn out to have webbed toes. we can’t twitch our skin very well, we’re not scared of the water and it’s even been pointed out that we do it like dolphins. yeah, I guess that’s right. Anaximander was the first to propose something like this, around 500 BC. and though we don’t credit him for the term “swamp ape,” it seems he may have been onto something. the trouble is that macaques and other primates can also hold their breath. and they say our ears are too big and our underwater vision too poor for the theory to really go anywhere.

that is, unless we’re talking about the Moken Sea Gypsies; who totally rock!

it’s been about 9 months since I’ve been to the ocean myself. but over the last couple months I’ve become more interested in doppler and ultrasound. and I can’t help wondering how it must sound from the inside, through all the membranes and amniotic fluid. it’s probably not exactly a sound so much as a vibe and if they could recreate it, they’d sell all kinds of ultrasound ringtone cards to pregnant women. something between vibrate and an orchestra of crickets or a pod of dolphins, available over the counter at a pregnant woman mall kiosk. the pregnant woman/fetal foto. like the recent marriage of KFC & A&W.

huuuuuuuum…
jeez, I’m sorry for that. I’m not sure what happened.

anyway, it’s all really exciting and I think it’s time to start experimenting with some of these sounds, at least at home I mean. a week or so ago we tried looped choruses of strings and percussion amplified to around 100 dB.

2 comments:

kel said...

i just upgraded my phone from a brick-shaped Nokia to a flip phone made by LG. it comes outfitted with a camera and everything but out of the box the ringtone options are slim pickins. do you know if i really could download something more like 'Bird from inside the womb' for a decent price? right now i've got it set on one called 'Jones talks to Chopper' and it's just okay.

The Mediocre Gatsby said...

I don't have the diving reflex. In fact, I have the opposite. For example, I try to stay away from the edge of the pool - and I never run near the pool - even if there aren't pool security there to enforce the sign.

So according to the water-monkey-hypothesis, does that mean I come from a different line of evelution? What about black people? I bet they have a racist explanation for that one...

But I do hope they are right. And then our kids would gave gills behind their ears - just like Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves...