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Intelligence without Brains

Saturday, June 1, 2019
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

How much brain do you need to be smart? Bees and ants perform marvels as colonies, though each insect has barely any brain. And plants—with no brain at all—exhibit behaviors that, by any definition, count as intelligent. Brace yourself for a mind-bending exploration of plants that learn new behaviors and warn their brainless fellows of danger; vines that compete with each other; molds that solve puzzles; and trees that communicate and cooperate through a ‘wood-wide web’ of microscopic mycological fibers. Perhaps the real question is, are we smart enough to appreciate the vast range of intelligence that surrounds us?

The Big Ideas Series is supported in part by the John Templeton Foundation.


Natalie AngierAuthor

Natalie Angier is a Pulitzer-prize winning science columnist for The New York Times and the author of Woman: An Intimate Geography—a finalist for the National Book Award—and The Canon: A Whirligig Tour through the Beautiful Basics of Science, among other books. She has also written for Smithsonian, The Atlantic, National Geographic, The American Scholar, Wired, Geo, Slate, and many other publications.

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Monica GaglianoEvolutionary Ecologist

Monica Gagliano is a research associate professor in evolutionary ecology. She is based at the University of Sydney as a Research Affiliate at the Sydney Environment Institute and a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

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Simon Garnier Biologist

Simon Garnier is an associate professor in the Federated Department of Biology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers-Newark. He is the head of the Swarm Lab, an interdisciplinary research lab that studies the mechanisms underlying collective behaviors and swarm intelligence in natural and artificial systems.

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Thomas HortonMycologist

Thomas R. Horton is professor of Mycology at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry. His research is focused on mycorrhizal fungi.

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Naomi LeonardControl Theorist

Naomi Leonard is the Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and associated faculty member of the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University.

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Mark MoffettBiologist, Anthropologist

Mark Moffett began doing research in biology in college and went on to complete a PhD at Harvard. Moffett is known for documenting new animal species and behaviors during his exploration of remote places in more than a hundred countries.

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