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Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence Hardcover – Mar 12 2015

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press (March 12 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610916034
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610916035
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #129,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

Brilliant Green… [is a] timely, highly accessible summar[y] of fast-developing fields… Combine[s] a passion for plants and a desire to illustrate their largely unsung complexities with an appreciation of the burden of proof needed to persuade us of a world that contains chlorophyllic sentience.”
(New Scientist)

"Mancuso advocates for a second Copernican revolution, of sorts. Just as medieval people had to concede that the stars and planets don't orbit Earth, we must accept that the living world doesn't revolve around us."
(Maclean's)

"Mancuso and Viola blaze a trail of intrigue, to study the seemingly inaccessible, to fathom the unfathomable, to celebrate the essence of life on Earth....This book is nothing short of summer reading that broadens the soul."
(San Francisco Book Review)

"A brilliant fusion of historical and modern research, Brilliant Green is a quirky little book can be quickly read, yet it is captivating and eye-opening, and will make you stop and think. The authors’ fervor and wit jolt the reader out apathetic anthropocentrism and we awaken in the fascinating world of plant intelligence."
(The Guardian's GrrlScientist)

"Brilliant Green.. lays out the case for approaching plants as fellow intelligent life-forms... key insights to fields across the sciences, from botany to robotics."
(Boston Globe)

"A short primer/manifesto on the history and science of the [plant intelligence movement]."
(Salon)

"...a compelling and fascinating case not only for plant sentience and smarts, but also plant rights."
(The Guardian)

"Brilliant Green… [is a] timely, highly accessible summar[y] of fast-developing fields… Combine[s] a passion for plants and a desire to illustrate their largely unsung complexities with an appreciation of the burden of proof needed to persuade us of a world that contains chlorophyllic sentience."
(New Scientist)

"Read this book: it informs and excites the mind. Exuberantly translated from Italian by Joan Benham, Brilliant Green can be read in a sitting...an excellent work."
(The Biologist)

"...Mancuso, a leading scientist and founder of the field of plant neurobiology, presents a new paradigm in our understanding of the vegetal world."
(EarthTalk)

"[Brilliant Green] is an interesting book about plant intelligence with amazing examples of how plants routinely interact with their surroundings."
(Wildlife Activist)

"...an engaging and passionate examination of the inner workings of the plant kingdom"
(Davie Mustangs See The World)

"Referring to ground-breaking scientific studies and historical perspectives, the authors shake up our views of the plant world—one that we are totally dependent on for oxygen and food, and one that we cannot afford to take for granted."
(NEXUS Magazine)

"[Brilliant Green] is, like the best science, the product of a powerful imagination, one with the ability to see the world from a completely fresh and unencumbered point of view—and to communicate that perspective to the rest of us. So put aside for a couple of hours your accustomed anthropocentrism, and step into this other, richer and more wonderful world. You won’t regret it, and you won’t emerge from it ever quite the same again."
(From the foreword by Michael Pollan author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, The Botany of Desire, and other books)

"Mancuso may be provocative, but he’s not alone and he hasn’t been for a long time."
(The Washington Post)

Book Description

A leading plant scientist offers a new understanding of the botanical world and a passionate argument for intelligent plant life.  

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great book on how plants have evolved complex and "intelligent" solutions and strategies to solve problems they encounter, to ensure their continued survival on Earth. It is a recognition that plants are as evolved life forms as we are, just in a different way, and that we should respect their right to live and treat them justly. The book highlights how we are completely dependent on plants for our well being and survival, since they produce the oxygen we breath and are the foundation of the entire food chain on Earth, and that we should treat them with great care and respect for their good, as well as our own.
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By David Wineberg TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 17 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Plants are far more advanced than we give them credit for. Mancuso and Viola are out to set the record straight, and they do it in an easy to read primer on the structure of plants. This is a fast read and a short book, covering a lot of ground far less verbosely than Darwin, where pretty much all of the observations originated.

The most important revelation in Brilliant Green is that plants are in effect colonies, like ants or bees. There are no essential organs that can fatally fail, and damage can be overcome by the network structure, much like the internet. Plants have numerous internal networks and systems. There is constant, active internal communication, and they take a very active role in their wellbeing and their environs. They can sense and favor their own offspring, seek out nutrients and avoid poisons, and instruct leaves to be more conservationist when moisture levels underground are low. They have not only all five of our senses, but 15 more, like detecting gravity, levels of sunlight, time of year and the presence of others.

If plants are wiped out, we would not survive more than a few weeks. If we were wiped out, plants would take over everything we had built in a few years. A lot more respect is due.

David Wineberg
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very good!! Everyone needs to read
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa74871e0) out of 5 stars 25 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7490c24) out of 5 stars Better than us March 3 2015
By David Wineberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Plants are far more advanced than we give them credit for. Mancuso and Viola are out to set the record straight, and they do it in an easy to read primer on the structure of plants. This is a fast read and a short book, covering a lot of ground far less verbosely than Darwin, where pretty much all of the observations originated.

The most important revelation in Brilliant Green is that plants are in effect colonies, like ants or bees. There are no essential organs that can fatally fail, and damage can be overcome by the network structure, much like the internet. Plants have numerous internal networks and systems. There is constant, active internal communication, and they take a very active role in their wellbeing and their environs. They can sense and favor their own offspring, seek out nutrients and avoid poisons, and instruct leaves to be more conservationist when moisture levels underground are low. They have not only all five of our senses, but 15 more, like detecting gravity, levels of sunlight, time of year and the presence of others.

If plants are wiped out, we would not survive more than a few weeks. If we were wiped out, plants would take over everything we had built in a few years. A lot more respect is due.

David Wineberg
43 of 51 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7490c78) out of 5 stars Fascinating topic, incisive research, terrible writing March 3 2015
By Aaron C. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most thought-provoking and the most irritating books I have read in quite a while. It begins with a history of prescientific investigation of plants. These often began by defining plants as living things that don't move. That is a poor definition for three reasons. First many plants do move in various ways, and second all plants move by growing. The latter may be slow compared to animals, but ignoring it misses some essential plant behavior. These reasons are pretty obvious, and will have already occurred to most readers of this book. But the third one, while just as obvious, may not have (at least it had not occurred to me). The real defining feature of plants compared to animals is that functionality is generalized and spread throughout the plant. While animals have specialized organs for specialized functions, and these organs can rarely be replaced if damaged or destroyed, plants are composed of generalist cells that can regrow whatever special structures are needed. This leads to a different way of thinking about plants, in some ways a plant is more like a colony of eusocial animals than a single entity.

Another ancient error is to assume that because plants are defined by the lack of an ability, plants are an intermediate form between inanimate (a word that illustrates the error by meaning not living, not moving and not like animals simultaneously) matter and animals. Many people assumed that because plants lacked specialized organs for a function, that they were incapable of that function; plants had no eyes so could not see, plants had no brains so could not think, plants had no mouths so could not communicate.

Some of these attitudes spilled over into scientific investigation, and can still cause errors. Unfortunately, this book veers between intemperate expressions of clear points and convoluted expositions. When the author's passion is aroused you know what he means, but it's wildly overstated. When he calms down, it gets very hard to figure out what he means. If the author likes a thinker (e.g. Darwin) he can do no wrong, if the author does not like a thinker (e.g. Linneaus) he can do no right.

This causes major problems when we get to modern research. The author does not engage with critics, he tags them with the errors of Aristotle and dismisses them. But if he likes a line of research, he oversells it. For example, it may well be true that biologists are too quick to assume that animal behavior drives plant/animal cooperation. It's more natural to talk about ants farming plants than plants controlling ants. But I don't think this is universal, for example, it is more natural to talk about plants attracting bees for pollination than bees exploiting plants for nectar. Moreover, the truth is almost certainly that neither view is correct, that what we witness are the results of coevolution.

But my biggest objection is the author does not parse out the subtleties in these questions and describe experiments that could test ideas. For example, plant stomata open and close in response to stimuli, which proves that plants can sense and process information. But to claim plants think, I would need stronger evidence. For example, could you teach a plant to open or close stomata in response to types of stimulus other than light, temperature, humidity or carbon dioxide? Or could you influence one plant's stomata by exposing the plant next to it to stimulus that normally causes opening and closing?

For another example, consider whether humans invented agriculture or plants enslaved humans. The former view seems more consistent with the fact that humans farm many plants, but these plants are farmed only by humans; and that the plants underwent far more rapid and drastic genetic change as a result. The author's account does not discuss aspects like this, so it is more the level of a stoned 3 AM dorm bull session than a popular science book.

If you can put up with the repetition, overstatement and half-baked speculation, you find a lot of fascinating information and insight in this book. It could change the way you think about plants, and life in general, and also expose you to some dramatic research results.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa74920cc) out of 5 stars Changes your perception on plants July 7 2015
By Edgy Szay - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Brilliant book, I certainly have a different view on plants now after reading this!

Interesting concepts with the occasionally nice drawings accompanying them and is written in a simple way for non-experts in the scientific department like me to comprehend. The author also helps give historical context as to how plants are constantly ignored and points out the reasons (which apparently come not from rational observations but rather simply from our own egoistical presumptions that plants are lower class than us because they are structurally different to us are among the other reasons that are touched upon by the book) as to why exactly they are regarded as so.

Compared to the reviews given from others though, I don't mind the repetition and the style of writing; I definitely would have forgotten about most of the things it discussed about had it not been repeated.

All in all, I personally find this book a great 'food-for-thought' book to read during your free time, and would whole-heartedly recommend this book to others interested in books that challenge and possibly change their views!

Brilliant Green is not a terribly long book, but it's not a terribly short one either. Reading it in either bits and pieces or (if you have the time) in one go is fine because the author of this book makes sure that the reader would leave with information they'll be sure to remember even after only having read it once!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa749248c) out of 5 stars even though they don't have a brain and central nervous system like ours, still are aware of and proactive in ... July 19 2015
By John P - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Eye opening scientific argument and manifesto about realizing the true intelligence of plants. They preceded animals and humans by millions of years and they make it possible for us animals and humans to survive. This book details how plants, even though they don't have a brain and central nervous system like ours, still are aware of and proactive in their environment. They are more important to us than we have popularly imagined and they deserve more respect than we give them. Just like we are becoming aware of the higher degree of intelligence in animals, we now need to regard plant life on this planet more seriously. I recommend this book to anyone with an open mind to the possibilities of life on this planet and in the Universe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7492438) out of 5 stars Could a Plant Win a Presidential Debate? Aug. 13 2015
By David Swanson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't mean an infiltrator planted in a nefarious plot to throw an election. I mean a green, soil-rooted, leafy plant.

I've been reading Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola. It is at the very least a suggestive treatise.

Imagine that astronauts discover life on another planet, and that the life discovered there is very different from humans. It doesn't use our sort of language or engage in our sort of thought. Yet it senses the world with many more senses than our pathetic little five. It communicates with others of its type and other types of life on the planet. Its individuals learn quickly through experience and adjust their behavior accordingly, strategizing and planning based on experience. It lives sustainably, adapts, and thrives for periods of time that make the existence of humanity seem momentary.

We might not choose to call that newly discovered life "intelligent" or "thinking." We might puff our chests out proudly, realizing that while we have arrived from afar to study it, it will never study us, at least not in a way we can recognize. But wouldn't much of our pride and excitement come from recognizing the impressive accomplishments and abilities of the novel life forms? Like a prophet outside his hometown, wouldn't those alien life forms become the focus of admiring academic disciplines?

Let's come back to earth for a minute. On the earth, 99.7% of the mass of living beings is plants. All animals and insects are negligible in those terms, and also in terms of survival. If plants vanished, the rest of us would be gone in a week or two. If we vanished, plants would carry on just fine thank you. When I say "we," you can imagine I mean "mammals" or "animals" because during the past several decades Western people have begun to return to believing that animals can feel and think and in other ways be like humans. A century ago non-human animals were thought to have no more awareness than plants or rocks.

If life forms on another planet were mysterious to us because they moved very quickly or very slowly, we would laugh at the Hollywood movies that had always imagined that aliens must move at more or less our speed. Yet, we film plants' movements, make them recognizable by speeding up the film, and go right on supposing that plants don't move.

Plants detect light above the ground and move toward it, and below the ground and move away from it. Plants detect nutrients below the ground and move toward them. Plants detect other plants closely related to themselves and leave them room, or detect unrelated competitors and crowd them out. Plants persuade insects to do their bidding. Plants hunt and dine on insects, mice, and lizards above ground, and worms below. Plants warn other plants of danger by releasing chemical messages.

A plant that closes its leaves up when touched by a hand, though not by wind or rain, if rolled on a cart along a bumpy road, will at first close up with each bump, but quickly learn not to bother, while still continuing to close up if touched by a person or animal.

Plants see light without having eyes. Plants hear sounds as snakes and worms do, by feeling the vibrations -- there's no need for ears. Plants that are played music between 100 and 500 Hz grow larger and produce more and better seeds. Plant roots themselves produce sounds, which conceivably may help explain coordinated movements of numerous roots. Plants sense and produce smells. Plants detect the most minute presence of countless substances in soil, putting any human gourmet chef to shame. And plants reach out and touch rocks they must grow around or fence posts they must climb.

Plants have at least 15 additional senses. They detect gravity, electromagnetic fields, temperature, electric field, pressure, and humidity. They can determine the direction of water and its quantity. They can identify numerous chemicals in soil or air, even at a distance of several meters. Plants can identify insect threats and release substances to attract particular insects that will prey on the undesired ones.

Plants can manipulate insects into assisting them in numerous ways. And if we weren't humans, we could describe the relationship between certain food crops and flowers and other plants, on the one hand, and the humans who care for them on the other, in similar terms of plants manipulating people.

In 2008, the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology recognized plants as possessing dignity and rights. Also in 2008, the Constitution of Ecuador recognized nature as a whole as possessing "the right to integral respect for its existence and for the maintenance and regeneration of its life cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes."

In 2008, the United States endured what at that point amounted to a truly outrageous presidential election circus. That was then. This is now. Imagine that scientists discovered the Fox News Presidential Primary debate. Here, they might observe, are life forms that wish to destroy life, detest the females of their own species, seek out violence for its own sake, reject learned experience through the bestowing of value on ignorance and error in their own right, and generate ill will in an apparent attempt to shorten and worsen their existence. Tell me honestly, would you be more impressed and pleased to stumble upon such a thing or to walk into a garden?


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