I see the world through other ‘eyes’ Review of ‘An Immense World’ by Ed Yong

G Venkatesh


One need not be a biologist, zoologist, herpetologist, ichthyologist, entomologist, ornithologist or an academic counterpart of any of these, to be drawn towards crawling, swimming, flying, arboreal and quadruped fellow-inhabitants of the Earth. For that matter, you need not even be a poet, painter or writer, looking for your Muse out there in the wilderness. Indeed, An Immense World by Ed Yong — a ‘magic-suffused’ 13-chaptered, 450-pager — may appeal a little more to the scientifically-inclined, considering that Yong is essentially a Pulitzer-Prize-winning science writer. The immensity he addresses in this gem of a book makes a reader feel miniscule in the scheme of things on Terra Firma.

The author welcomes readers into the book, using Rebecca as a representation of us Homo Sapiens, and a gym-occupying ‘imaginary menagerie’ — mosquito, spider, bumblebee, mouse, robin, owl, bat, rattlesnake and elephant — to introduce the Uexküllian (Jakon von Uexkull, Baltic-German zoologist) concept of the ‘Umwelt (Literally translates to ‘environment’ or ‘surroundings’ in German)’ — sensory bubble or perceptual ambience — which is very different and diverse for different life-forms. For instance, the elephant, we learn, sees only in shades of blue and yellow; and on a lighter note, is well-poised to identify the flag of Sweden fluttering at a distance, for instance. While empathy entails…read more on NOPR