Science journalist Ed Yong on how animals sense the world

A book cover and a picture of the author.
Ed Yong is an award-winning science journalist who has expertly covered the COVID-19 pandemic for The Atlantic. His new book, "An Immense World," unveils how animals use their senses to explore the world around them.
Author image by Urszula Soltyz | Book cover courtesy of Random House

All animals use their senses to perceive the world, humans included. But not every animal senses the same thing. In Pulitzer prize-winning science journalist Ed Yong’s new book, he explores the way each species sees the world through its own sensory viewpoint and explains why that should both delight and humble us.

“Senses always come at a cost,” Yong writes. “No animal can sense everything well.”

In “An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us,” Yong invites us to break out of our human sensory bubbles to consider the unique ways that dogs, dolphins, spiders, bats, octopus and countless other animals experience their surroundings.

On this week’s Big Books and Bold Ideas, Yong joined MPR News host Kerri Miller to share stories about why jumping spiders have eight eyes, how octopus arms operate without the brain, why Morpho butterflies have ears on their wings — and why we should gently resist the tendency to view other animals’ senses through the limited view of our own.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.


  • Ed Yong is an award-winning science journalist for The Atlantic where he did exceptional reporting on the pandemic. His new book is “An Immense World.”

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or RSS.

Subscribe to the Thread newsletter for the latest book and author news and must-read recommendations.