ScienceIAMAn ecologist. I have studied pythons and marsh rabbits in the Everglades, squirrels, and endangered bats. AMA!
Apr 4th 2018 by IFAS_WEC_AMAs • 23 Questions • 4500 Points
I'm an artist, father of two girls, a husband, and an outdoors hunter and fisherman. My collection "COLORISM" is an amazing display of colorful expressionist brushstrokes that brings my subject matter to life. I was originally born in a small city in Albania and moved to Canada in 1998. Few people know that I love to ATV and snowmobile, it is a cold county so you have to enjoy the outdoors. I'll be at Silicon Valley Comic Con this weekend showcasing my latest DC Comics universe inspired works of art. https://blendcota.com/
I couldn't help but notice you're a biologist with a JOB.
How does one acquire these?
B, link to your favorite composition, please.
Yes, getting paid to do what I love has been a long journey. I studied Environmental science in undergrad at the University of Massachusetts, while there I had the opportunity to study abroad in Africa. That opportunity really changed my life and made me want to do field biology. My first few jobs were internships, where I was given a small stipend and housing. I worked hard at those and built from there to paid technician work until I got into graduate school.
Somethings that really helped me be able to do this were: 1) I had 0$ student debt (between going to a state school, my parents, scholarships, and grants)
2) not having a car 3) being on my parent's insurance until I was 26 4) being willing to move every 3-6 months for 6 years
A: I rely entirely on the printed score to understand music. I cannot identify what voice is singing, what instrument is being played, melody, harmony, form - anything - but once I see it on the page, I know in my head exactly what it sounds like.
I would say this is linked to playing the piano. The piano is such a big, physical instrument with a wide pitch range; when you press a key down, you feel the hammer hit the string, the vibrations travel up your arm and every note feels different. It's easy to relate the note you depress to the one printed on the musical stave/score and therefore easy to relate what you see to what you feel.
I say "easy" as I never recall having any trouble learning music. I started playing the piano when I was 5 and, over the years, have tried playing many other instruments so I have some idea of their tone, timbre, etc.
There are some kinds of music which are harder for me to access, such as Jazz and Electronic as this cannot be written down and therefore I can't read and understand it.
B: To answer your second question, my favourite piece of music depends on what mood I'm in! I often think about what recordings I would take to that mythical desert island, and there are a few pieces that would always make the list:
Carilion - Herbie Flowers and Ian Gomm (Recorded by SKY on their first album) Ave verum corpus, K. 618 - Mozart West Side Story - Bernstein
I am a massive James MacMillan fan - I think he's a genius!
It is a toss up between batman and superman. Too hard to choose just one. Depends what comic book I was into at the time.
Have supportive parents, who are not poor, willing to drive you around, pay for college and be completely supportive of the education endevors that you choose. Too late for me, but I will try to do better for my kids.
Disneyland and Space Mountain!
I read a research (cited in theguardian's recent biodiversity longform piece) that said climate change had eight times more media presence than biodiversity issues. What are your thoughts on this?
In regards to the tones "feeling different" how does that relate to a synthesized instrument vs. an actual piano?
They are completely different. Every 'real' piano you play feels different whereas most synthesised instruments I've tried feel exactly the same. The latter are not alive to me at all whereas acoustic instruments have their own character and personality.
All the time
Are you the same Everglade python and rabbit researcher that wrote a letter to the My Favorite Murder podcast about almost getting murdered/wandering into a crime scene????? If not, what are the odds and you should listen to that episode!
So would this be similar to Beethoven when he went deaf, and relying on vibration? I imagine the experience being similar, but never having heard the actual sounds..kudos to you man, that's rather mindblowing! Is there no tech available or in the pipeline that you know of that might make it accessible? Do cochlear implants not work? Anyway, you're an inspiration man, like someone who's denser than water but swims the Channel, has no arms but takes up shot put, damn, I have no good analogy, like a guy who does what you do. Inspiring, makes me think I should do more with what I have. Hope the road ahead works out curiously wonderful for you.
Love your comments, thank you so much. I don't feel an implant would work for me at all. I like my current curiously wonderful life. Hope yours is equally curiously wonderful!
I heard that there are nile crocodiles in the everglades now, is that true?
How did you get into music?
Also how do you describe the feeling of music?
Also congratulations and I think you are cool! X
Thank you very much!
Even though I was born deaf, music was always around in the house when I was growing up. My Mum played the piano and my parents had the radio on or played records nearly all the time, so I was aware of this phenomenon which affected people in profound ways. Perhaps if I had grown up in an environment where there was lots of art or dance, I may have pursued that path instead!
Finding a teacher was often a challenge as they were unsure of how to communicate and to explain music to someone without hearing. I always rely on what I call the 'played example' where the teacher showed me what they wanted me to do, then I watched and copied it.
Describing the feeling of music is a tough one to answer. Sometimes, I can attend a performance of a piece of music and feel that I'm going to burst because it's so overpowering; at other times, it makes me happy or sad or makes me cry. Music can bring people together, and divide people, can be used as a political tool, can be experienced alone or in a crowd. You can have several thousand people attending one physical performance of a piece of music, but everyone goes away having responded to it differently. That's the power of music! For me, it's something that I just have to do and I can't imagine life without it.
My favorite Disney character to paint has got to be Mickey Mouse. He is definitely my favorite but I love to paint him with Minnie Mouse.
I don’t have a question but a small story to let you know your research is making an impact on younger generations.
While babysitting a friend’s nearly 4 year old son, he piped up and asked me and my husband “Do you want to be on my team?” “What sort of team?” “We will work in the Everglades and return lost pets to their owners. We will be rescuers.” “Oh yeah? Tell us more.” “Well, we’re going to rescue Burmese pythons that got lost by their owners because they’re not supposed to be there.”
See, he’s addicted to watching National Geographic. He saw a show ep regarding the Everglades where they talked about dumping of snakes and the impact on the ecosystem. He understood the snakes are a problem and they’re there because of people but in his mind, the snakes were lost and not abandonded. He just turned five and he still wants to be part of an Everglade rescue team.
Hello Dr. Whittaker. Thank you for doing this AMA. As a CoDA (also from the UK), it is really wonderful to see a member of the Deaf Community spreading positive information about the fact that people who are deaf really can do anything that a hearing person can do. Apart from hear, of course.
You mentioned we could ask questions about access issues. What kind of access issues do you face in your work and/or personal life? Is there anything you would want to highlight to hearing communities as a particular issue that you (and other deaf people face)?
Hello, many thanks for your message and question. As we both know, deaf people can do anything that hearing people can do, apart from hear!
I'm fortunate in having a decent Access To Work agreement and have good interpreter support, but that doesn't stop me from occasionally wanting to pick up a phone and have a conversation with someone, or from wishing that I could listen to the radio. Generally speaking - I'm told - the level of conversion and debate on radio is far higher than it is on TV.
Probably the biggest access barriers are to do with every day leisure and entertainment. Things like not being able to go to the cinema or the theatre when you feel like it, but having to find when there is a captioned or signed performance. That restriction of choice is frustrating, especially if you're wanting to go with friends. Within that, there is the issue of whether the interpreter is actually any good, whether you can understand them, or whether the captions will actually work in the cinema.
Technology has improved the lives of deaf people in many ways and there is certainly far more choice and more opportunities than when I was young, but there is still a long way to go before deafness and deaf people are seen and accepted.
What still concerns me greatly is the quality and provision of deaf education in the UK. Teachers Of The Deaf often do a sterling job under difficult circumstances, but integration certainly does not work for all deaf children, and many deaf children fail to achieve their potential. Expectations can often be quite low and although this is not current political thinking, my view is that there should always be a place for schools for the deaf.
Greater recognition of BSL and having it as a curriculum subject in schools would make a vast difference, but we then have the issue of who would actually teach it as there aren't enough good BSL teachers around.
The amount of poor quality so called "BSL" signed song videos on YouTube and other social media is one of my bug bears. It's so disheartening reading glowing comments about how marvellous these videos are when they don't respect deaf people or their language, and shows just how ignorant a lot of people are about sign language.
What's your view on all this?
The style is modern expressionism but I like to refer to it as "Colorism". It takes me probably a month or two month to finish a piece (from concept to final painting). I tend to work on two or more paintings at the same time so I can keep my mind fresh, take a break, and stay engaged!
Is there anything I can do while living in the city to help any of those animals?
What's your favorite genre? Deaf metal?
Of your work do you have a favorite piece? If so where is it now?
Thank you so much for your interest in helping wildlife!
You may not realize it, but lots of wildlife live in cities! Urban parks are important places for birds to nest or stop in while they migrate and peregrine falcons even nest on sky scrapers!
So you can do things right in your neighborhood to help wildlife- make sure your trash is secure (its bad for raccoons to get at trash), keep your pets inside (dogs and cats scare wildlife), and even plant or put out potted plants that can provide food and cover for animals living in the city.
As for the animals in the Everglades, donating to The Everglades Foundation is a great way to help out. Also, share what you know about invasive species (like the pythons) so that other people won't introduce more.
Did I give you enough home work? :)
Are you finding that the python population is the greatest threat to squirrels or is it merely an aggravating factor along with habitat loss and climate change issues?
As a metalhead i find the phenomenon of insanely loud music at concerts very troubling. Even with earplugs, it is sometimes too loud.
If you could have any of your art displayed on any place in the world, which piece would you choose and where?
My masters and PhD work are not related, my squirrel research is in southwest GA where fire suppression and habitat loss is the big problem.
However, I do have a few projects still going on in the Everglades and it seems that squirrels are one of the only mammal species still hanging on down there.
Potentially, being arboreal and diurnal (active during the day) helps keep them away from the snakes. As for the rest of the mammal populations, while habitat destruction, pollution, and water flow problems are certainly not making life easy - pythons are by far the biggest threat.
I did a study where I looked at the spacial distribution of mammals and how that lined up with habitat loss, water flow, pollution and other factors and found that pythons are the #1 problem for mammals.
Despite my deafness, I was aware of a lot of music going on in the home, and at age 5 decided I wanted to play the piano. 2 years later, I joined the local church choir and through that developed an interest in the organ, which I started to learn when 12. At 14, I took charge of my own choir. Originally I considered a career as a concert pianist or organist, but couldn’t really be bothered to practice enough (!) so eventually decided to aim for a University place to read for a music degree. Over a 2-year period I applied to 12 Universities and was rejected by all of them because of my deafness :(
I wouldn't say that Beethoven's loss of hearing and his later works were an influence on me at all. The onset of his deafness was gradual so he had the benefit of hearing music when he was young; whereas I was born deaf so don't have that advantage.
Having said that, I do feel there are some strange ideas about how Beethoven's deafness affected him and I wrote an article about this a few years ago. If you want to see it, let me know.
Have her practice her craft as often as possible to perfect her skill set. An immersive school for the arts might benefit her. Good luck!
I had never heard of marsh rabbits until moving to Florida. Are they a separate species or a subspecies? Do they have traits that make them more successful in the marsh? Does interbreeding occur?
You mention how you can feel the vibrations from a piano. Is there anything similar when playing an organ?
Do you speak Albanian? I always get interested when I meet figures who are Albanian because they're so rare! (I am Albanian too, but Macedonian Albanian.)
Reach out to the park! Everglades National Park has an active volunteer program.
The Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area is another great organization.
Slightly off-topic, but relevant since your papers are affected:
So many white paper publications are stuck behind paywalls, and I'm not about to fork up $39.95 USD for full access to your paper on invasive pythons, even though I'd be very interested in reading the full-text if the content were affordable.
As an engaged citizen (but not a student, nor employed by a scientific / academic employer), I hit these white paper paywalls once every week or two and was wondering if you have any advice. Specifically: What is the most affordable (and still ethical) means to access the wonderful world of full-text white papers?
Regarding the Universities rejecting you due to deafness, was this because they didn't know what to do with you, or because they wouldn't/couldn't alter the ear training requirements for you?
For my undergraduate degree the ear training was intense, and a huge part of the program. We had to pass a 64 Interval test, sight singing, and dictation exams to even stay in the program. The music department at my University had the highest non-completion rate because people couldn't pass the 64 Interval Test, so counselors would actually discourage people from being a music major. I imagine most of those things would have been difficult for you, except perhaps for sight singing?
Did you try any music conservatories instead? They tend to be less concerned with the above and more centered on performance practice.
What are your thoughts on digital comics vs. print comics?
Thank you so much for thinking about how to help bats on your property!
If you live in Florida, most bats like to sleep under bark and in hollow trees. If at all possible, keep older trees and snags on your property. If you do need to remove these habitats try to replace them with bat boxes.
Avoid using pesticides on your property, bats can be your natural pesticide! Depending on what types of bats you have you can plant vegetation that will encourage their prey (i.e.moths). No matter what, before you do anything, make sure bats can't get into your home! Seal up any cracks, chimneys, or crawl spaces so the bats stay outside. The best way to help wildlife is to reduce any chance of conflict/interaction with people!
What is one thing you think everyone should know about squirrels?
How is it playing an instrument without hearing it? Is it even still fun? Do you imagine the sounds in your head?
I may not hear the instrument, but I can certainly feel it and there is an immense amount of fun and pleasure from that. My main instruments are the piano and organ and, having tried many other instruments over the years, I have a good imagination and was actually told by one of my tutors that I was really good at orchestrating and arranging music because my imagination was so vivid.
I would say that your ears are not actually that important when playing music; your heart and soul and emotion play a bigger role. Musicality is not linked to hearing ability. There are thousands of hearing people who say they don't like music and many deaf people who do!
That is up to interpretation... but I like the way I look and my art. Judge for yourself at blendcota.com
Have you recorded the Florida Bonneted Bat (Eumops floridanus) at all in the Everglades or anywhere else where you have surveyed? Either acoustically or by capture.
I would like to add that as a (almost) deaf former professional musician, my ears prevent me from hearing music as I know it should sound. If I could somehow disconnect my ears and stop the tinnitus and distortion I would enjoy music a lot more than I do now. I miss the good old days.
How did the Burmese pythons got to the Everglades? Were they purposely put there for eradicating some other invasive species?
Is there any feedback loop that you use when playing music to make sure you are keeping time/pitch? Can you feel any vibrations that help you keep on track or is it just a matter of accurately transcribing sheet music into movement for you?
Pythons were introduced to the Everglades accidentally via the pet trade.
The most likely scenario is that in the 1980's a few owners released their pets when they got too large. These released pets found each other and started to breed in the wild. Another possibility is that breeding facilities in Florida were damaged by hurricanes and many baby snakes were released.
I guess this question is linked to signed song. I don't use any equipment apart from my hearing aids, but can only translate a song when I've seen the sheet music, learned it, and memorised it. I then spend time going through the song with my interpreters, checking timing, multi-tracking, and other musical elements. Once I've completed that process, the recording of a song is pretty well implanted in my brain, though I still have to rely on vibrations to follow it when performing.
On occasions, I do keep an eye on my interpreter so that they can mouth lyrics if I get out of time but this doesn't often happen. Rather, I mentally fast forward to certain chords and when those specific vibrations hit me, I know I'm in time.
My art has been on display at Wonder Con and New York Comic Con but I have not been to the Con in Calgary but it is on my list.
Awesome!!! Thank you! I was just at Wondercon and saw your art there. They said you’d be at SVCC so I waited to get something hoping you’d sign it in Silicon Valley. My favorite painting is your new Superman. It’s sick! Is that Catwoman behind you available yet? I want to get that one too!
That is a great idea! I am always on the lookout for good science words that can also be names. Lindenii is the species name for Ghost orchids, so Linden is an option I have considered. Also, Hyla is a genius of tree frog that I love.
Congratulations and good luck!
Are the pythons expanding their territory north into the rest of the state? Is it even possible to eradicate them at this point, or are they here to stay?
Do you know other sign languages, such as American Sign Language? I have a degree in music and I took ASL courses at my university. I would love to be more involved in deaf music culture. How do I do that? I am hearing ( actually I sometimes suspect that I have over sensitive hearing) but I have great earplugs to protect myself if need be.
With my work, I travel to many countries, but I'm never there long enough to acquire local sign language skills. For my involvement with ASL, see my reply to /u/NeutralSabrina.
If you were in the UK, I would do my best to involve you in some of my work so you could gain experience. Sadly, you're not in the UK, and I don't actually know of any national organisations in the US that focus on music work with deaf people. My suggestion would be to investigate local deaf schools and deaf centres, find out what music and arts activities they have, and offer to help. You could also try contacting local professional music venues, orchestras, bands, etc, etc, to ask if they have any engagement with the deaf community.
Great to know that you have ear plugs to protect your hearing. So many people don't realise how easily their hearing can be damaged - it's so important to look after it because once you lose it, it's gone!
I do, you can check out my work at blendcota.com
I can't wait to meet you at SVCC!
As temperatures may change in the next hundred or so years, will the niches these animals live in change in any ways that will effect them? Will their regions expand northward/southward?
Also, since you're an active ecologist who studies animals, maybe you have a story or two I can add to this (since there's no book on these types of broad ecology relationships, I had to start a new page to collect them): http://tttthis.com/lessonsfromecology.php
What's your favorite book?
I am doing fine, thanks. Hope you are too. As I'm not a medical Doctor, please don't ask me to treat you if there is anything wrong!
I went to an art focuses high school and practiced my craft 8 hours a day, six days a week.
Any interesting stories from your field work? Ever get spooked at night? Observe some undocumented behaviors in animals in the wild? Do you have any novel hypothesis about the creatures you study?
Music treats the soul though, doesn't it?
I get spooked all the time at night! I used to do solo owl call back surveys at night in Grand Canyon, at first I was scared to hoot - I didn't want the creepy crawly boogie men to find me. Eventually, I got over it.
In a fight, we all know a python beats a rabbit.
But - as an ecologist - how many rabbits do you think it would take to tip the scales? (pun intended)
TLDR: What is the scientific Bunny/Python ratio, for gambling purposes, mostly.
Have you ever composed any music? I imagine it would hard as you were born deaf.
Marsh rabbits are lovers not fighters. I don't even use drugs to keep them calm while I handle them. Some of them even lick me gently during collaring! Sooo...I don't think any number of rabbits could take on a python.
I know how to compose and once or twice I have written short pieces for people I know, but would not call myself a composer. I prefer arranging music, especially for voices, as this challenges my imagination, but it's always easier writing or arranging for people or ensembles that you know rather than for strangers.
I don't find it hard to do simply because I've had a lot of musical training and have a lot of theoretical and academic knowledge. I admit that it would be nice to actually hear the performance taking place and experience the effect of sound in that specific building, but simply because I've never been able to hear, I don't spend any time getting upset or worrying about it.
I'm a musician and my uncle is a hard of hearing musician, so I appreciate all you've done. Thank you.
My question is: is your full title "Dr. Sir Paul" or "Sir Dr. Paul"? Very important, need to know.
She got a liver infection and passed away a year and a half ago :( Kidiri is nice tho.
Thank you for your comment. I'd be interested to know what your uncle plays and how he copes with his hearing loss.
I have not been knighted, I am just Paul Whittaker OBE, but you can call me Paul.
How did you like working with Vin Diesel in the Fast and the Furious movies?
You should see my driving skills. I can sign and drive at the same time (don't try this at home).
Hello Paul, I hope I'm not too late...
Have you done much work with people who have aquired hearing loss? I'm asking because of my Dad; he has been hard-of-hearing all his life but it has been deteriorating at a constant rate. Listening to music has always been one of his greatest passions, but recently he stopped listening to music because he says he can't really enjoy it anymore. I'm really saddened by this and wondered if people like him can find other ways to enjoy the music they love so much?
PS. nice to see a fellow person from Huddersfield!
Hello fellow Huddersfield person!
I have worked off and on for 30 years with people who have an acquired hearing loss. So often they need much more support and encouragement and really struggle to adapt to having hearing loss. Hearing aids will only give a limited amount of help and, sadly, I know of many people like your Dad who stop listening to music because they say they can't enjoy it anymore.
If you wish to email me, then perhaps we could meet up and I could also meet your Dad to try and offer help and advice - [email protected]
How did the queen look in person? Taller or shorter than you expected? And what did she say to you?
It was the third time I've met The Queen when I got my OBE. The first time, we chatted about my work. The second was a brief introduction as part of a welcoming party, and the third was congratulating me on receiving an OBE.
She was shorter than I expected but has immense presence and makes you feel like you're the only person in the room.
Hey Doc! I have a severe to profound hearing loss and I've been thinking about learning an instrument. I have a cochlear implant and hearing aid. I am located in Australia!
I have had my eyes on piano or trumpet for a while now, what steps could I take? I might check out your website, that may answer my questions.
Hi! Great to hear from you ;) my simple answer is to have a go at loads of instruments then decide which ones you like best! Whatever you choose to play, I would recommend that you find a teacher but probably not someone who is too formal.
I don't have any info on my website about playing different instruments, but I do have a friend in Australia who has done a lot of work on music and deafness. Her name is Karen Kyriakou. Google her. She is based in Melbourne.
Do let me know if you contact her and how you get on. Good luck!
I am a piano teacher and musician, and due to a congenital defect, I am basically deaf now without my hearing aids. With them I can hear the piano just fine, although I have an extremely difficult time understanding speech. I am mostly just commenting to say thanks for posting, because I was wondering if I was the only one out there. What support resources do you recommend for hard of hearing/Deaf musicians? I spend so much time being angry about losing my hearing and I’d like to focus that energy elsewhere.
You're not alone by a long way. Being angry is totally understandable but I hope you can channel that into something positive.
it's tricky recommending support resources as each person's needs are different. You clearly have a lot of musical knowledge and experience though, and that puts you in a good place to cope. Please can you email me on [email protected] and we can have a more in-depth chat about how I could help and support you.
Hi! I’m a CODA in the US and wondered if you consider yourself Deaf (culturally Deaf) or deaf (hearing loss)?
As an aside, I love seeing Deaf people proving that Deaf Can! Recently read about the first deaf police officer in the US (she’s in Texas, I believe).
And my (Deaf) dad has always been a big fan of music, I used to interpret songs for him while he had huge headphones on with the sound up real high so he could feel the vibrations of the beat.
Hi. I've always had a problem with the phrase 'Deaf Culture' because it often seems to exclude things that are important to me like music and literature. I find that Deaf Culture can be quite limiting and don't understand why deaf experience needs to be sidelined into something quite exclusive.
I realise that's quite a political point but I wish to see people engaging with and experiencing life in all it's variety rather than just a little bit of it.
Deaf people can indeed do anything, but I know quite a few who need a good kick in order to get them moving!
I see myself a deaf person who is cultured.
Hi, Dr Whitaker, since the advent of closed captions and text messages do you feel this equalizes both the hearing and hard of hearing people and how does it aid you in your engagement with the world?
Closed captions and especially texting have made a massive difference to me and to many deaf people.
Live captioning can still be frustrating when it doesn't give the right information and captioning on DVD's does not always give full information. Technology alone isn't enough for us to feel fully equal in a hearing world, but the situation is certainly better than it was when I was a child.
Texting, messenger, WhatsApp, things like Reddit, make a big difference if you have decent written skills but for a lot of sign language users, they have more limited use and impact.
Can someone still enjoy music if he or she have some hearing problems?
If so, how?
The short, simple answer is yes. I suppose it depends on whether you're enjoying music passively or actively - is the person making music or listening to it?
I have always maintained that if a deaf person wants a career as a musician, they have to learn a lot about it theoretically, academically, technically. When I was at University, my tutor once told me that I was the easiest student he'd ever had to teach. When I asked him why, he said it was because I was deaf and therefore had to rely on a printed score. He pointed out that, when asked to analyse a piece of music, most people just went away and listened to it. Because I couldn't do that, but had to rely on reading a score, he said that I noticed far more information and was therefore more analytical.
I feel it's easier to make music as a deaf person if you've had a hearing loss from birth or a young age. Coping with an acquired hearing loss (or any disability) is much harder because you're so used to being able to hear, see, or whatever, and it's harder for your brain and body to adjust. Over the years, I've often felt that I have let people with acquired hearing loss down because I couldn't help them as much as I wanted to and felt that they would benefit more from 1:1 help which distance precluded me being able to do.
The earlier you can expose anyone to music, the better. Let them explore the range that is available. Try lots of instruments and styles so that they find something that they like and enjoy, then from that you can begin to develop more detailed interests and knowledge. For me, hearing loss is irrelevant. It's about passion, participation, and enjoyment.
Every individual has their own interpretation of music, their own taste, likes, and dislikes. One of the great things about music is that it can never really be wrong. It's entirely what you make of it.
I hope I am not late. :) Thank you for the AMA Dr Paul Whittaker!
Wow. I am shocked!
Was ever, anyone jealous of you? :)
I am not a musician, not sure how to write this down, but sometimes when you press 2 sounds on the keyboard of the piano, those 2 sounds are totally NOT matching. It is something like a screech for my ears. Do you have anything like that when using the piano vibrations?
This might be a stupid question, but, can you whistle? :-)
I'm sure people have been jealous, but they've never come up to my face and told me so!
I think you're talking about dissonance here, which is where you get two sounds which don't sound pleasant together. Yes, it still feels like a dissonance through vibration. Scientifically, you have certain notes that work in harmony with one another, and others that don't, and it's both an aural and physical sensation.
I can't whistle. See other reply about that.