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Dolphin Dreams

Dolphins, I've just found out, do not sleep at all. This, supposedly, is why they have such unnecessarily large brains for what they need to do. Because they never sleep, they also don't dream and since they don't dream they have to have large brains since the reason for dreaming - the theory goes - is to clear the brain of neurological garbage. Dolphins aren't really as smart as their huge apparently well developed brains and especially forebrains would indicate. They just have a lot of brain trash that they don't know what to do with, so it just sits around there cluttering up their head like that closet you never got around to organizing.

I'd read a book on early Dolphin research by the scientist John Lilly who wrote back in about the sixties. I forget all that he discovered, but I remember the way he started out with his research was to vivesect five or six of these cute sea mammals so that he could carefully examine slices of their brains. Also, in setting up his special research facility he killed a couple accidentally since he didn't know the proper way to transport them. He didn't seem too troubled by his casual slaughter of these adorable animals.

After reading this book, I looked around to find out what other studies had been done with dolphins and I found virtually nothing. Well, there had been a lot more dolphin research it turns out, but the problem was that it was taken over by the US military and was therefore classified. The Navy soon figured out that dolphins were very trainable and cheap - they worked for fishes. Word is that dolphins now patrol underwater at sensitive government marine facilities. Oh, and of course the Navy figure out that if you strap a bomb on the back of Flipper they make really neat guided torpedoes. You'd have to figure that they wouldn't miss that one.

I'm not sure that I really buy the argument that dolphins have big brains for no particular reason. After all, sharks don't sleep do they? And they don't have gigantic craniums. And if sleeping sharpens the intellect how come cats aren't geniuses? They sleep all the time. They're smart enough at killing birds and such, but have you ever seen a cat do calculus? They just mess it all up.

The fact of the matter is there is not one universally accepted scientific theory about why animals sleep. That is scary. You would have thought that would have been one of the first things they would have nailed down, but for some reason, no. There are a lot of guesses or scientists who are willing to state their guesses with the certitude of God himself, but they don't all agree.

I'd like to believe that Dolphins are as smart as humans and they use every single one of their brain cells. I've wondered, though, what on Earth they would do underwater all that time without any hands. They can't build nuclear bombs or play chess or anything like that, and if you put an X-Box in front of them they would absolutely be out in the cold. Pretty much all they could do is swim around all day and look at fish. I think I could do that for a day or two and be pretty happy, but after that, man, it's got to get a little old.

Dolphins communicate with each other, even though I haven't heard that their system's been entirely figured out. Certainly no scientist is willing to give them the benefit of believing they could have an actual language. But, you know what? I will. Dolphins have a language and it's absolutely beautiful - to them. They spend all day telling each other stories and most of all they create the most exquisite poetry the world has ever known. And the reason they don't sleep is because life to them is absolutely wonderful and they don't want to miss any of it - not even to dream.

About the Author: Steve Sommers is the author of Breakfast with the Antichrist. His new novel, Rexroi, along with the best of Australian Science Fiction - is available as an ebook at, OR if you ABSOLUTELY need to turn pages when you read - at

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