Out on 24 June 2021

Sentient

Jackie Higgins

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24 June 2021
9781529030808
480 pages
Synopsis

'Sentient is a tour de force of popular science, leading the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the natural world, to show the fascinating parallels between animal and human senses.' - Stephen Moss, naturalist and author

Sentient
assembles a menagerie of zoological creatures – from land, air, sea and all four corners of the globe – to understand what it means to be human. Through their eyes, ears, skins, tongues and noses, the furred, finned and feathered reveal how we sense and make sense of the world, as well as the untold scientific revolution stirring in the field of human perception.

The harlequin mantis shrimp can throw a punch that can fracture aquarium walls but, more importantly, it has the ability to see a vast range of colours. The ears of the great grey owl have such unparalleled range and sensitivity that they can hear twenty decibels lower than the human ear. The star-nosed mole barely fills a human hand, seldom ventures above ground and poses little threat unless you are an earthworm, but its miraculous nose allows it to catch those worms at astonishing speed – as little as one hundred and twenty milliseconds. Here, too, we meet the four-eyed spookfish and its dark vision; the vampire bat and its remarkable powers of touch; the bloodhound and its hundreds of millions of scent receptors, as well as the bar-tailed godwit, the common octopus, giant peacocks, cheetahs and golden orb-weaving spiders. Each of these extraordinary creatures illustrates the sensory powers that lie dormant within us.

In this captivating book, Jackie Higgins explores this evolutionary heritage and, in doing so, enables us to subconsciously engage with the world in ways we never knew possible.

How would the First Encounter with an extraterrestrial alien change our view of ourselves? Great science fiction explores the question. But we don’t need science fiction. The aliens are all around us – the octopus with its mysterious body-image, the electric scanner of the platypus’s bill, the magnetic compass of a migrating bird, the moth antenna that can detect the scent of a female in quadrillion-fold dilution. Jackie Higgins’s lyrical, literate style will charm you while her book stuns your imagination with strange, other-worldly truths.

Richard Dawkins

Sentient is a tour de force of popular science, leading the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the natural world, to show the fascinating parallels between animal and human senses.

Stephen Moss, naturalist and author

If we are sentient, how do we know the world? Why presume other species might know it less? In her fantastic new book, Jackie Higgins digs deep to show us star-nosed moles that see what they touch, discovers how great grey owls fly silently in search of their prey, and how sightless humans can see with their faces. You will never see in the same way again. With potentially endless reverberations for our creative and perceptive states, Higgins delivers a series of delicious lessons in what it is to be sensate, and shows how our own brains can emulate the miraculous feat of the animals with whom we share this fragile planet.

Philip Hoare, Samuel Johnson Prize-winning author of Leviathan and Albert and the Whale