Laurance Doyle


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Laurance Doyle
EducationM.S. San Diego State University (1982)
Ph.D. University of Heidelberg (1986)
SETI Institute
NASA Ames Research Center

Laurance R. Doyle (born 1953) is an American scientist who received his Ph.D. from the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg.

Doyle has worked at the SETI Institute since 1987 where he is a principal investigator and astrophysicist.[1] His main area of study has been the formation and detection of extrasolar planets, but he has also worked on communications theory.[2] In particular he has written on how patterns in animal communication relate to humans with an emphasis on cetaceans.

Early life

Doyle grew up on a dairy farm in Cambria, California and therefore, didn't have much access to information about stars. But by reading books at the local library, Doyle was able to develop his knowledge in astronomy, and eventually obtain his Bachelor's and Master's of Science degrees in astronomy from San Diego State University.


His first job was at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an imaging engineer, where he was in charge of analyzing pictures of Jupiter and Saturn sent from the spacecraft Voyager. He moved to Heidelberg, Germany, to help analyze images of Halley's Comet. He got his doctorate in Astrophysics at the University of Heidelberg.

Doyle is currently seeking to compare dolphin whistles and baby babble in an attempt to make predictions about extraterrestrial communications. He believes that by measuring the complexity of communications for different species on Earth, we could get a good indication of how advanced an extraterrestrial signal is using an application of Zipf's law.[2][3][4] His study determined that babies babble over 800 different sounds with the same amount of frequency as dolphins. As they grow older, those sounds decrease to around 50 and become more repetitious. The study found that baby dolphins develop similarly in regards to their whistling.

Doyle is faculty at Principia College and the founding Director of Principia College's Institute for the Metaphysics of Physics, founded in 2014.

In popular culture

In May 2005, he appeared on a National Geographic Channel special titled Extraterrestrial. He also appeared in the episode "Will We Survive First Contact," of The Science Channel series titled Morgan Freeman's Through the Wormhole.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Oberhaus, Daniel (2019-09-27). Extraterrestrial Languages. MIT Press. pp. 51–53. ISBN 978-0-262-35527-8. OCLC 1142708941.
  3. ^ Doyle, Laurance R.; Mao, Tianhua (2016-11-18). "Why Alien Language Would Stand Out Among All the Noise of the Universe". Nautilus Quarterly. Archived from the original on 2020-07-29. Retrieved 2020-08-30.
  4. ^ Kershenbaum, Arik (2021-03-16). The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal About Aliens--and Ourselves. Penguin. pp. 251–256. ISBN 978-1-9848-8197-7. OCLC 1242873084.

External links

  • NASA workshop
  • Paper he co-authored on communications at the Wayback Machine (archived September 3, 2006)
  • Essay by him on about whales
  • SETI Profile
  • Profile of the Drake equation led by Doyle
  • Wired article