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Test decodes dolphins’ math skills

Nonlinear mathematics may be behind the mammals’ ability to see through bubbles

2:45pm, July 19, 2012

Dolphins could teach humans a thing or two about finding Nemo. The aquatic mammals may pinpoint prey hidden in bubbles by using mental math.

By adjusting the volume of sonar clicks, then processing the incoming echoes, dolphins might have solved a problem that still stymies man-made sonar: how to peer through frothy water. Using clicks that mimic an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, scientists devised a system that weeds out sound clutter from underwater bubbles.

“It’s really ingenious, actually,” says oceanographer Grant Deane of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. “I think it’s very clever work, and there are a number of significant applications for it.”

Using something like a fireman’s hose, researchers shot bubbles into a huge water tank set underground. The bubbles cloaked a submerged target: a steel ball slightly smaller than a baseball. Then, the researchers sent out short bursts of so

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