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科学美国人60秒: 黑暗中的哭泣

所属教程:科学美国人60秒科学系列 更新:01-17
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Bat Chatter Is More Than a Cry in the Dark

黑暗中的哭泣

When we humans talk to other humans, the sounds we make all have very specific meanings. "When I say apple you immediately imagine something that has the characteristics of an apple." Yossi Yovel, a neuroecologist at Tel Aviv University in Israel. "And the question is, do animals also have something like that?"

当我们人类交谈的时候,我们所发出的所有声音都具有特定的含义。“当我说苹果的时候,你立刻就会想到苹果的特征。”Yossi Yovel是以色列特拉维夫大学的神经生态学家。问题是,动物们有这样的能力吗?

Yovel and his team chose to listen in on bats, which do a lot of vocalizing. In fact, in caves with vast numbers of bats, it's total cacophony. "It sounds like a crowd in a football stadium before the match has begun, or something like that." To simplify the problem, the researchers eavesdropped on a much smaller colony—just 22 Egyptian fruit bats.

Yovel和他的团队选择了听蝙蝠的声音,蝙蝠会制造出很多的声音。实际上,在洞穴中存在大量的蝙蝠,这非常的不和谐。“场景就像比赛开始前足球场的情景,或者其他类似的情况。”为了简化问题,研究人员偷听了一个较小团体蝙蝠群——只有22只埃及蝙蝠。

Over several months, they recorded tens of thousands of calls, along with synched-up video—which allowed them to decipher the speaker, the intended recipient, the situation, and the behavior resulting from each call. They then fed their huge database of calls to computers, to test whether machine learning could help make sense of them, using algorithms like the ones used for human speech recognition.

几个月来,他们记录了数十万种蝙蝠的声音,还有同步的视频——这让研究者们就能够译解说话者、目的者、情景以及每个叫声所引发的行为。之后,他们将这些叫声的数据库输入电脑,来测试是否可以利用分析人类言语认知的算法了理解蝙蝠叫声的含义。

Turns out, the algorithms could correctly identify which bat made each call, more often than chance would predict. "And I can say to some extent who is this bat shouting at, so who is the addressee of this vocalization?"

结果表明,这些算法可以正确识别哪个蝙蝠发出了叫声,正确的几率高于一般机会。“在某些程度上,我可以说这个蝙蝠在冲哪只蝙蝠叫喊,即声音的受体。”

They could even figure out what a bat might be angry about, like “hey, that’s my spot, or gimme some space] and how the addressee might respond—meaning there's really quite a lot of information embedded in bat vocalizations. Pretty useful, if you live in the dark. The study is in the journal Scientific Reports.

他们甚至发现了在哪些情境下蝙蝠会生气,例如“喂,这是我的地,让开点”,以及声音的接受者如何反应——这意味着在蝙蝠的叫声中包含了大量的信息。如果你生活在黑暗中,这种办法非常的有用。该研究结果发表在《科学报告》杂志上。

As for whether we might someday have Google Translate for bat calls? "Well, Google, definitely not… but perhaps an iPhone." But seriously, "For sure in the next 100 years we will always be behind, we will never really be able to generate a bat to human dictionary. But definitely we will advance in that direction." And in doing so—it might shed a little light on animal communication in general. And how our own language evolved.

那么在未来我们是否会有关于蝙蝠叫声的谷歌翻译呢?“谷歌,当然不是啦……但是,可能是在苹果手机上。”但是,认真而言,“毫无疑问,在未来的100年,我们将一直处于落后地位,因为我们绝对不能制成一个真正意义上的可以用于蝙蝠的人类字典。但是,毫无疑问,我们将会向着那个方向前进。”通过此种方法——可以揭示部分动物交流。以及我们人类自己的语言是如何进化的。

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