[Yong's] new book aims to open our eyes to another unseen world...From ultraviolet vision to echolocation, by way of those singing mice, it examines the world of animal senses that extend beyond the limits of our own...It is a delight...Some nonhuman senses are outlandish — a little scary, even...Catfish have taste buds all over their body; if you licked one, Yong observes, 'you’d taste each other'...Rattlesnakes 'see' thermal radiation given off by animals...Seals can hunt down a fish 200 yards away, following its wake through the water with their whiskers...Dolphins use clicks for echolocation, like bats, and can perform an ultrasound examination of their prey so fine-grained that they can differentiate between otherwise identical canisters of water and alcohol...Yong makes heroic efforts to try to understand how any of this might feel...Yong calls his book a 'call for humility,' and it did fill me with a certain awe...But it goes further...Subtly — Yong is never heavy-handed — it prompts a radical rethink about the limits of what we know — what the world is, even...It is quite a book...And, I felt, putting it down, quite a world.
That I found myself surprised at so many moments while reading An Immense World, Ed Yong’s new book about animal senses, speaks to his exceptional gifts as a storyteller — though perhaps it also says something regrettable about me. I was marveling at those details because I found them weird; but it turns out, if I try to expand my perspective just a bit, they aren’t so weird after all ... Yong offers these facts in a generous spirit, clearly aware that part of what will enthrall readers is discovering just how few of these facts many of us have known ... Yong’s book is funny and elegantly written, mercifully restrained when it comes to jargon ... If there is a benefit to trying to imagine ourselves into the experiences of others, maybe it lies in the enormous difficulty of doing so; the limits of every species’ sensory bubble should serve as a reminder that each one of us has purchase on only a sliver of reality.
... a dense and dazzling ride through the sensory world of astoundingly sophisticated creatures. Who wouldn’t want to tag along on a field research trip or peek into the lab of a sensory biologist? ... rich with stories from lab and field, with lucid explanations of the mechanics behind sensory perception. There is more than enough mind-boggling science, with delightfully distracting footnotes on most pages and a whopping 45-page bibliography. Yet Mr. Yong’s storytelling will carry most readers through the thicket with ease ... It’s Mr. Yong’s task to expand our thinking, to rouse our sense of wonder, to help us feel humbled and exalted at the capabilities of our fellow inhabitants on Earth. This rich and deeply affectionate travelogue of animal sensory wonders ends with a plea to us—noisy, light-polluting anthropoid apes—to stop and consider others’ needs: for silence, for darkness, for space. Despite the stunning discoveries chronicled here, what we don’t know about these animals’ experience in the world we share is still virtually . . . everything.
... sumptuous ... One doesn't pick up this book so much as fall into it ... [Yong] leans into the mysteries but follows a clear through line, amplifying the science ... From bat sonar to dog noses to piscine electric fields, Yong's reporting is layered, seasoned with vivid scenes from laboratories and in the field, interviews with researchers across a spectrum of disciplines ... swells into philosophy and politics, underscoring the urgency of climate change. Yong's book melds epic journeys with intimate reckonings, one of this year's finest journalistic achievements.
... a journey to alternative realities as extraordinary as any you’ll find in science fiction ... It is also a tour of places that are, in essence, unknowable. We will never really understand what it is like to be a bat, perceiving its surroundings through echolocation. Yet Yong — a gifted science writer who works for The Atlantic magazine and who won a Pulitzer prize last year for his reporting on Covid-19 — proves an outstanding guide ... It helps that he has a fantastic cast of characters ... Beautifully written and painstakingly researched, the book is brimming with these kinds of observations ... This is perhaps the highest compliment one can give to Yong: this fantastic book leaves you wondering what else is left to be discovered.
Yong explains how these senses work — sometimes down to the biochemical level — and takes us on field trips to meet the scientists behind the findings, all while masterfully weaving these disparate threads into a single narrative rope. But, as I finished chapter after chapter, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we kept falling short of our promised destination: understanding what it’s like to be another animal...This may be impossible .... Again and again, Yong tiptoes up to the precipice of another animal’s experience but never quite takes that final imaginative leap ... This is all crucial information, but it doesn’t answer the underlying question: What is it like to be a dog? ... Overall, Yong avoids using metaphors to other senses, but when he does indulge in them (or more often, when he quotes a scientist making that imaginative leap), these are the parts of the book I keep thinking about ... What Yong never really gets to, however, are animals’ inner lives ... Although An Immense World doesn’t quite plunge readers into other animals’ worlds, it does make a case for how much we humans miss — and misunderstand — when we fail to consider other animals’ worldviews. This, in itself, is a major achievement.
Yong writes in a perfect balance of scientific rigor and personal awe as he invites readers to grasp something of how other animals experience the world ... Yong is indifferent to two motivations that compel scientists to study animal senses: to better understand our own senses and to apply knowledge of animals' senses to produce new technologies. I found his perspective welcome: 'Animals are not just stand-ins for humans or fodder for brain-storming sessions. They have worth in themselves' ... My admiration for the book is, well, immense ... Yong brings into beautiful focus a host of other animal sensory worlds that co-exist with ours, and how we may protect them. He has synthesized and compellingly presented a spectacular amount of scientific information to do this, making it look easy along the way. But isn't easy at all. It's a magnificent achievement.
Yong tackles the realm of animal senses, taking readers on a fascinating journey backed up by impressive research ... Yong's scope is far-reaching, and the issues and scientific concepts involved are sometimes complex. But much like a skilled mountain guide, he takes the time to prepare readers for what lies ahead ... Yong brings to this project a supreme mastery of science writing for the general reader, so don't be intimidated by the nearly 50-page bibliography. An Immense World is an accessible, illuminating and endlessly exciting reading experience. Yes, nonfiction about science can be page-turning! ... While this title is perfect for adult nature lovers, the accessibility of Yong's approach also makes this a wonderful gift for high school or college students interested in science. For at its heart, this treasure of a book is a sober reminder of what's at stake in the 21st century—and today's students will be tomorrow's researchers and citizen scientists.
... magnificent ... Yong has a knack for vivid similes ... might be his most audacious undertaking so far ... We may feel like we are the masters of our planet, having mapped every inch of its landmass and stared into the guts of an atom, but when it comes to understanding what it’s like to be a songbird using the earth’s magnetic field to navigate across continents, we barely know where to start. Yong is up for giving it his best shot, not least because he understands how damaging it can be to disregard other creatures’ perspectives ... The book is so full of these little astonishments, beautifully rendered, that Yong occasionally risks overwhelming our sense of wonder ... But it’s the attempt that matters, and Yong succeeds brilliantly in shedding light on these alien worlds – worlds that drift around us every day, like plankton around a scallop, but whose richness and extravagant strangeness we rarely pause to examine. Now, thanks to this book, we have scenes to help us see.
... [Yong] has done it again, and then some. His sumptuous new work, An Immense World, is a sweeping survey of animal senses, and how and why they mold us even as they remain elusive. One doesn’t pick up this book so much as fall into it ... He leans into the mysteries but follows a clear through line, amplifying the science ... From bat sonar to dog noses to piscine electric fields, Yong’s reporting is layered, seasoned with vivid scenes from laboratories and in the field, interviews with researchers across a spectrum of disciplines. Animal geeks will dine out on the rich anecdotes, the historical detours and pithy footnotes, all propelling his momentum. His prose is witty, capacious and erudite ... swells into philosophy and politics, underscoring the urgency of climate change. Yong’s book melds epic journeys with intimate reckonings, one of this year’s finest journalistic achievements.
The menagerie of critters and their unique perceptual abilities Yong examines here include the platypus with a bill that detects electric fields, sand scorpions that rely on surface vibrations to hunt prey, the echolocation prowess of bats and dolphins, the ultrafast vision of killer flies, and the outstanding olfaction of elephants...The facts are frequently astonishing...Yong worries about humanity’s 'ecological sins,' as sensory pollution—noise, night lighting, chemicals—is ubiquitous...Yong’s scientific curiosity and concern for the natural world are contagious...This is 'sense'-ational reading.
... immaculately researched, elegantly written, iconoclastic and compulsively readable ... makes otherness seem tantalizingly out of reach. He left me vertiginously disconcerted, for any serious attempt to imagine the perspective of a non-human leaves in ruins our cherished, self-referential presumptions about the kind of place the universe is ... that is the ethos of this extraordinary book. Ed Yong lays bare the thrilling inadequacy of our own epistemologies and makes plain the central truth that the more we know, the deeper the mystery.
In his 1974 essay, 'What Is It Like To Be a Bat?' philosopher Thomas Nagel argued that other animals experience a world utterly foreign to us, one nearly impossible to describe...In this follow-up to I Contain Multitudes, Yong, a staff reporter for the Atlantic who won a Pulitzer in 2021 for his reporting on Covid-19, mostly follows the traditional popular science format (travel the world, interview experts), but he takes a different, realistic, and utterly fascinating approach, emphasizing that every organism perceives only a tiny slice of the world accessible to its senses...In a dozen chapters, Yong delivers entertaining accounts of how animals both common and exotic sense the world as well as the often bizarre organs that enable them to do so...Building on Aristotle’s traditional five senses, Yong adds expert accounts of 20th-century discoveries of senses for echoes, electricity, and magnetism as well as perceptions we take for granted, including color, pain, and temperature...One of the year’s best popular natural histories.
Pulitzer-winning journalist Yong reveals in this eye-opening survey animals’ world through their own perceptions...Every animal is 'enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble,' he writes, or its own 'perceptual world'...Yong’s tour covers vision (mantis shrimp have '12 photoreceptor classes'), sound (birds, researchers suggest, hear in a similar range as humans but they hear faster), and nociception, the tactile sense that sends danger signals (which is so widespread that it exists among 'creatures separated by around 800 million years of evolution')...Yong ends with a warning against light and sound pollution, which can confuse and disturb animals’ lives, and advocation that 'natural sensescapes' ought to be preserved and restored...He’s a strong writer and makes a convincing case against seeing the world as only humans do: 'By giving in to our preconceptions, we miss what might be right in front of us. And sometimes what we miss is breathtaking'...This is science writing at its best.