‘An Immense World’

Jennifer Szalai at the New York Times:

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. One of Yong’s themes is that much of what we think of as “extrasensory” is “simply sensory.” A term like “ultrasound” is “an anthropocentric affectation.” The upper frequency limit for the average human ear may be a measly 20 kilohertz, but most mammals can hear well into the ultrasound range.

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. I would have called the book “illuminating,” but Yong made me realize how much bias is baked into an adjective like this; humans, as a species, are “so relentlessly visual” that light for us has “come to symbolize safety, progress, knowledge, hope and good” — and so we have illuminated the planet to make it a more comfortable place for us, while making it less inhabitable for others.

more here.