An Immense World, by Ed Yong - Hidden realms around us

It’s time for something fun, and amazing, and of the real world, a part of it most of us ignore most of the time.

I had a friend suggest I check out Ed Yong, a science journalist who’s written some popular books.

I got on the web and first impressions were good, given his two books and COVID articles and an impressive resume’. Those sent me straight to another favorite search engine, YouTube, where I found over a dozen videos of Ed Yong talks over the years. Listening to a few of them added to my admiration. His book, “I Contain Multiples” resonated with me and reinforced and enhanced my growing understanding of the biome within and what it means. He’s a good story teller.

I got particularly excited by his “An Immense World” talks. I downloaded the book in audio and listening to the complete book and it did nothing to disappoint. Now, besides starting a second listen through, I’m going to order a hard copy and make the time read it.

What’s really gratifying is that Yong book/reporting provides the bricks and mortar that undergird my own decades old hippy dippy country boy notions, that started when I fell in love with Wawona and nature in general, way back 75ish. Namely a deep recognition of the vast variety and individuality of creatures out there in the landscapes around me. A love for the complexity and all the layers and cycles between living things. The web of life, each individual character playing their part, looking at the world through their own particular eyes, senses.

And my more recent contentions also gets affirmed, that is, we’d do better to view our consciousness and senses as an interaction, not some oneway receiver that simply collects data.

Our senses quite literally interact with our environment, there are exchanges on all sorts of levels, many beyond our ability to observe. Yong offers a peek.

The book is a culmination of many thousands of curious scientists from all over the world, striving over the past decades, with ever more amazing sensory capabilities being discovered and understood to an extent never before possible. Ever more environments and creatures are being studied, and on deeper levels than ever before.

Yong’s state of the science review weaves these varied discoveries into a coherent internally consistent description of what humans have been able to learn about the sensing abilities of countless creatures great and small. Even his closing chapter is spot on, when too many others sputter.

Of course, I read it with primed eyes and a mind that’s easy with the notion that, I am an evolved biological sensing creature, a product of Earth’s evolution, and all other beings are related to me. Beyond that, I have a living appreciation for time, deep-time, varied Earth time-scales all coming together in this moment, the wave of consciousness that we ride.

Appreciating the Human Mindscape ~ Physical Reality divide is also a great tool for better grasping these Earth realities that are totally outside of our own experience. Yet, happening within the same space and moments that we inhabit.

There’s some more ideas I want to tease out of that, but it’s late and I better get to bed. Still I been wanting to start a thread on Ed Yong and his recent book, “An Immense World,” and I’m tired of putting it off.

Here’s the index for a taste of what he’s sharing:

  • An Immense World
  • How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us
  • By: Ed Yong
  • Narrated by: Ed Yong

  • Length: 14 hrs and 17 mins





Introduction: The Only True Voyage


Chapter 1: Leaking Sacks of Chemicals: Smells and Tastes


Chapter 2: Endless Ways of Seeing: Light


Chapter 3: Rurple, Grurple, Yurple: Color


Chapter 4: The Unwanted Sense: Pain


Chapter 5: So Cool: Heat


Chapter 6: A Rough Sense: Contact and Flow


Chapter 7: The Rippling Ground: Surface Vibrations


Chapter 8: All Ears: Sound


Chapter 9: A Silent World Shouts Back: Echoes


Chapter 10: Living Batteries: Electric Fields


Chapter 11: They Know the Way: Magnetic Fields


Chapter 12: Every Window at Once: Uniting the Senses


Chapter 13: Save the Quiet, Preserve the Dark: Threatened Sensescapes


End Credits


Heck I was going to share one of his talks, this one is an interview with Sean Carroll, an excellent science communicator in his own right.

Mindscape 201 | Ed Yong on How Animals Sense the World

Sean Carroll - Jun 20, 2022 #philosophy #ideas #culture

All of us construct models of the world, and update them on the basis of evidence brought to us by our senses. Scientists try to be more rigorous about it, but we all do it. It’s natural that this process will depend on what form that sensory input takes. We know that animals, for example, are typically better or worse than humans at sight, hearing, and so on. And as Ed Yong points out in his new book, it goes far beyond that, as many animals use completely different sensory modalities, from echolocation to direct sensing of electric fields. We talk about what those different capabilities might mean for the animal’s-eye (and -ear, etc.) view of the world.

Ed Yong received Masters and Bachelors degrees in zoology from Cambridge University, and an M.Phil. in biochemistry from University College London. He is currently a staff writer for The Atlantic. His work has appeared in National Geographic, the New Yorker, Wired, the New York Times, and elsewhere. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in explanatory journalism for his coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among his other awards are the George Polk award for science reporting and the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award for in-depth reporting. His new book is An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us.