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How animal senses reveal hidden realms around us

Humans use sight, smell, touch, taste and sound to navigate our reality. Hold my beer, says the animal kingdom that has access to 33 distinct senses to build their vivid world.

Pulitzer-winning science journalists Ed Yong invites us to enter a new dimension via The Amazing Nature of Animal Senses, a lecture based off his 2022 New York Times Bestseller, “An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us.” Yong will kick off the Natural History Museum of Utah’s 2024 Lecture Series: The Science of Intelligence on March 12, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. at the museum’s Canyon room. The event is free, but space is limited. Register here to reserve your spot. [Editors note: Ed Yong’s lecture is full. Register to be added to the waitlist. All other lectures have availability.]

Yong’s newest book explores how animals use senses that are invisible to humans, including how sea turtles and songbirds navigate from Earth’s magnetic field, how sharks and platypuses perceive the electrical fields from living things, how rattlesnakes detect infrared radiation from their warm-blooded prey.

“It is scientifically rich,” said Yong during an interview ahead of the lecture. “But I think it is also philosophically rich. It really does change the way we think about the world around us, the way we think about the nature of subjective experiences, the way we treat other creatures. And I think the topic is also inherently beautiful and there’s a lot of, it is about beauty.”

Headshot of an Asian man wearing a blue-patterned shirt.

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Ed Yong

Ed Yong, Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist.

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Though we rely mainly on vision, other seeing animals often choose to lead with other senses. To Yong, there was no greater teacher to this fact than Typo, Yong’s pup who appears in the book and in his talk.

“To walk with my dog is to understand that the pavements of my neighborhood, even though they seem fairly unchanging and mundane in my eyes, are constantly bursting with new scents and new information to his nose,” said Yong. “By understanding the sensory world of other animals, we gain a better sense of our own responsibilities to nature. We become more connected to the natural world. We understand how we’re harming it by flooding the quiet with noise and the darkness with light. I think this is all really important stuff to know about and I think it creates a sense of wonder and connection to the creatures around us.”

Yong was awarded journalism’s top honor, the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting, for his crucial coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. An accomplished speaker, Yong brings his vast scientific knowledge and engages his audiences through his insightful conversations about the pandemic, the animal kingdom, the challenges of science journalism, and more. The newest book is vintage Yong, exploring nature for nature’s sake such as his previous book from 2016, “I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life” about the microbes and parasites that live within us. Yong assures us his latest lecture will leave audiences with a new perspective.

“The book is designed to be a wealth of riches. Every page is meant to blow the reader’s mind in some way and provide them with fodder for countless dinner parties,” said Ed Yong, a Pulitzer-winning science journalist. “The talk is basically that, but in a 45-minute lecture form.”

For the 2024 Lecture Series: The Science of Intelligence, the museum has curated speakers that explore how intelligence manifests in plants, humans, animals, and machines. Upcoming events in the series are David Eaglemen, one of the world’s most noted neuroscientists who will deliver the keynote, “What Does AI Mean for Humans? The Road to Augmented Intelligence;” and Suzanne Simard, ecologist and science communicator who explores the inextricable link of forests and fungi in “Finding the Mother Tree.” The series closes with an artificial intelligence panel with local leaders on the opportunities and challenges presented by rapid adoption of artificial intelligence.

Learn more and register at the Natural History Museum of Utah.


  • Margaret Chamberlain public relations, Natural History Museum of Utah