Peggy Hill

Peggy Hill

Peggy Hill

Associate Professor, Biological Science

In 1966, the Beach Boys released a worldwide hit with the song "Good Vibrations." While writing the classic song, Brian Wilson probably did not realize he was describing a real scientific phenomenon.

But biological science associate professor Peggy Hill understands what the song is really about. In the past two decades, she has become one of the foremost scholars in the emerging field of vibrational communications.

Her new book, Vibrational Communication in Animals, is touted by the publisher and critics as the foundational text in the field.

"There is really no other book written about vibrational communication across all animal taxa," Hill said. "No one else has pulled together reports from all animals into one source, then connected the common mechanisms and sorted out the terminology."

Hill said she became interested in vibrational communication when she began studying the prairie mole cricket in 1991 for her doctoral research. A discovery dawned on her when recorded cricket songs playing through the air were not getting the response she planned. She realized the crickets responded to the vibrations they felt, not the sounds humans hear.

"I ended up organizing a symposium in 2001 for everyone in the U.S. actively working on vibrational communication," Hill said. "We published papers of that meeting, which was really the beginning of the book."

Hill said the book will likely be used as a text and reference for the rapidly expanding field of vibrational communication. But, she also hopes it will be used by a broader audience, even nonscientists simply interested in animal communication.

So, do humans really have the ability to "keep those lovin' good vibrations happening"? Hill thinks so.

"Humans have the same specialized nerve endings as other mammals, so we do have the sensory equipment," Hill said. "This could explain some of our 'odd' responses to situations when we get the 'heebie jeebies.' We are perhaps sensing some sort of alerting vibrations but have been trained from childhood to not consciously recognize them."

Hill said much more research needs to be done on human vibrational senses, and she hopes that others will use her book as a building block to expand the body of knowledge.