BOOK REVIEW: Nature is Never Silent by Madlen Ziege

Nature Is Never Silent: how animals and plants communicate with each otherNature Is Never Silent: how animals and plants communicate with each other by Madlen Ziege
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Out: Hardcover out February 8, 2021 [e-book is out now]

The central premise of this book is that humans miss the tremendous amount of communication that is going on among and between other species. We miss it because we think of communication in an extremely limited way that revolves around visual and auditory expressions of human style languages. It doesn’t occur to us that different senses (e.g. smell) or other activities (e.g. stinging or passing gases,) could be used to convey messages as overt as, “Don’t touch me!” to as complex as, “There are good flowers to the southeast, roughly four-hundred meters along this line” or “Watch out! Some beetles have started chewing on my bark.”

While one might still dismiss all this communication as extremely simple compared to the infinitely complicated endeavor humans have made communicating, it’s not all just warning signaling. Many species engage in a form of communication that most people would probably attribute to humanity alone, specifically, deception. There are female fireflies who cannot only send a mating signal to males of her species to engage in reproduction, but can send counterfeit signals of other species to attract a male of another species of which she can make a snack.

It’s also important to note that it’s not just the species most similar to us who communicate. There are chapters devoted to both unicellular creatures and plants, species that one might be surprised to learn are quite active communicators.

I found this to be a highly thought-provoking book for the nature-lover, and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to expand his or her horizons with respect to what is being transmitted in the natural world on those cold and quiet days when it seems like not a creature is stirring, and yet there’s always something.

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TODAY’S RANT: Invisible Conversants

Proposed addition

Proposed addition

A few years back, I was leaving an office building when I saw a man ranting full-bore. He was gesticulating wildly, delivering karate chops to the air with vicious intent, pulling at his hair. What was even more disconcerting was the potty mouth on this guy; he weaved together a chain of expletives that would make a mafia don blush. Yet, I could recognize his words as one half of a conversation, though there was no one else to be seen. He would pause and respond, and I could vaguely imagine what the invisible conversant would have said to invoke such a response.

I, of course, concluded that this poor soul should be committed to an asylum.  I was wondering if I should call the guys with the straight jackets to bring their rubber-lined van when the man swung around to pace the pavement in the other direction and I saw the BlueTooth headset clinging to the side of his head.

I then realized that this man was not certifiable.  He was just a rude douche-bag with a bad temper.

In the good old days, when someone was talking to an invisible conversant, you knew that they had an imaginary friend speaking in their ear. While this didn’t necessarily make them a danger, it did put one on notice that voice in their head might just be saying, “Get stabby.”

Today, I think we are being desensitized by miniature wireless headset technology. Now instead of assuming the someone chatting up an invisible conversant has gone around the bend, we assume that they are communicating with a real, live, flesh-and-blood person. This may be to our own peril.

What I’m suggesting is that Bluetooth headsets be made more conspicuous. They should be in bright neon colors, and should have a flag viewable by people from all directions. The flag would indicate that they aren’t hearing the voice of Beelzebub in their ear telling them to have a nice killing spree.

Just a suggestion.

It’s only going to get worse, when the first people start getting surgically grafted cell phones.