Ed Yong—science journalist, editor at Atlanticwinner of the Pulitzer Prize for Explaining Reporting for his coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and author – appeared on “Talking Animals” to discuss his new book, A Huge World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us.
Yong recounted the genesis of the new book, noting how it evolved from a suggestion his wife, Liz Neeley, made while they were chatting in a London cafe, after Neeley remarked that he didn’t had no solid idea for a new book.
Yong observed that, as a result of the extensive reporting and research he conducted to prepare A huge worldhe ends up with a book featuring exploration of the senses of a wide range of wildlife, from creatures that many people find off-putting, like spiders, to charismatic creatures, like elephants.
I pointed out that there is at least one human animal that Yong highlights for having developed one of the most rarefied animal senses – echolocation – that most people associate with bats and dolphins. Yong recounts how a man named Daniel Kish went blind shortly after birth and taught himself to use echolocation, clicking as he navigated his home and neighborhood.
Yong Addresses umwelt, how the world is experienced by a specific animal, as opposed to how another animal experiences the world – a kind of “sensory bubble” – in what appears in the book as an important motif. (At one point in our conversation, Yong refers to “a mosquito’s umwelt.”)
We touch on anthropomorphism, mainly in that I wonder where it was before starting to work on A huge world and how his perspective changed by the time he finished the book.
We also discuss the fact that, during the pandemic, Yong took a step frequently taken by many during this time: he got a dog… a Corgi puppy that he named Typo. Given that Yong is a science journalist who has written about animals and animal behavior for years – but has never had an animal in his life – I wonder how the addition of Typo has influenced his work and the new book.
It’s probably best to listen to his response, but suffice to say the Neeley/Yong family experienced the common challenges of raising a puppy, but Yong clearly embraced all aspects of his canine companion – he’s certainly aware allow the dog to sniff a lot. time and Typo’s impact on the award-winning journalist seems considerable.