American space agency NASA funded an experiment aimed at analysing interspecies communication that included getting intimate with dolphins and feeding them LSD.
In 1961, the book by Dr John Lilly “Man and Dolphin” described his ideas about communicating with dolphins through observations of them mimicking human voices. It inspired American astrophysicist and author of a famous equation Frank Drake to work with neuroscientists to help establish tools for extraterrestrial communication with other intelligent species.
“I’d read his book and was very impressed”, said Frank Drake, as quoted by The Guardian. “It was a very exciting book because it had these new ideas about creatures as intelligent and sophisticated as us and yet living in a far different milieu”.
The astrophysicist, who is seen as the father of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence experiment and author of the Drake equation that estimated the chances of contacting alien civilisations, helped Lilly to win funding from NASA and other government agencies to open up a laboratory in 1963 to establish a closer relationship between humans and dolphins in a common space.
In 1964, Margaret Lovatt joined the laboratory to help the project. She encouraged dolphins to make human-like sounds, while trying to teach them to speak English. The experiment went wild when Lovatt decided to live round-the-clock in isolation with a young male dolphin called Peter, who then got really intimate with her, according to the researcher.
“He was very, very interested in my anatomy. If I was sitting here and my legs were in the water, he would come up and look at the back of my knee for a long time. He wanted to know how that thing worked and I was so charmed by it”, Lovatt said.
She then went on to relieve his sexual urges manually during the experiment.
“It wasn’t sexual on my part. Sensuous perhaps. It seemed to me that it made the bond closer”, the researcher explained.
At the same time, John Lilly also started using licensed LSD on dolphins to see what kind of effect this would have on them and their communicative and learning abilities. Lovatt objected to the use of the drug on dolphins, and did not allow Lilly to carry out this experiment on Peter with whom she had become particularly close. The use of LSD did not prove to be really fruitful, and as the poor progress of research was reported to Drake by another astronomer Carl Sagan, the funding was cut, leading to the laboratory’s closure.
In the meantime, the research on finding a toolkit for talking to individuals with different physiology and learning alien languages continued. In 1974, Drake and Sagan came up with a short wave radio signal known as Arecibo and sent it into space in an attempt to demonstrate human technological achievement and potentially communicate with other species.