The Reality Bubble

The Reality Bubble➹ [Read] ➵ The Reality Bubble By Ziya Tong ➼ – From one of the world's most engaging science journalists a groundbreaking and wonder filled look at the hidden things that shape our lives in unexpected and sometimes dangerous waysOur naked eyes see From one of the world's most engaging science journalists a groundbreaking and wonder filled look at the hidden things that shape our lives in unexpected and sometimes dangerous The Reality eBook ä waysOur naked eyes see only a thin sliver of realityWe are blind in comparison to the X rays that peer through skin the mass spectrometers that detect the dead inside the living or the high tech surveillance systems that see with artificial intelligenceAnd we are blind compared to the animals that can see in infrared or ultraviolet or in degree vision These animals live in the same world we do but they see something uite different when they look aroundWith all of the curiosity and flair that drives her broadcasting Ziya Tong illuminates this hidden world and takes us on a journey to examine ten of humanity's biggest blind spotsFirst we are introduced to the blind spots we are all born with to see how technology reveals an astonishing world that exists beyond our human senses It is with these new ways of seeing that today's scientists can image everything from an atom to a black holeIn Section Two our collective blind spots are exposed It's not that we can't see Tong reminds us It's that we don't In the st century there are cameras everywhere except where our food comes from where our energy comes from and where our waste goes Being in the dark when it comes to how we survive makes it impossible to navigate our futureLastly the scope widens to our civilizational blind spots Here the blurred lens of history reveals how we inherit ways of thinking about the world that seem natural or inevitable but are in fact little than traditions ways of seeing the world that have come to harm itThis vitally important new book shows how science and the curiosity that drives it can help civilization flourish by opening our eyes to the landscape laid out before us Fast paced utterly fascinating and deeply humane The Reality Bubble gives voice to the sense we've all had that there is to the world than meets the eye. Just as rocks hurtling at supersonic speed find it hard to penetrate Earth's atmosphere unwelcome facts and unfamiliar ideas almost never make it through the membrane of the reality bubble It shields us from thinking about forces “out there” that are seemingly beyond our control and lets us get on with the business of our lives As a science journalist and long time host of The Discovery Channel's science programme The Daily Planet I expected Ziya Tong's book The Reality Bubble to be a science heavy fact filled look at some of the unexamined realities of today's world But that's not uite what this is although there are many many interesting nuggets to be found here this is of a wake up sheeple call to arms against those invisible processes behind modern life that Tong herself has identified as the greatest threats to our planet – where our food comes from where our energy comes from and where our waste goes It's an oddly specific thesis repeated a few times throughout yet it doesn't uite get fleshed out by the body of this book With a persistent default to the Argumentum ad Naturam logical fallacy that whatever is natural is automatically superior to anything made by humans Tong's main point seems to be that we should treat animals and our planet better which conclusion it would be foolish to argue against I didn't think the book was well organised I didn't think that Tong made any kind of persuasive argument and without offering any solutions for a different way of doing things I was left with the overwhelming feeling of “Well what was the point of that?” Note I read an ARC and passages uoted may not be in their final forms The first section of the book had the most interesting sciencey facts and there were many bits that made me think and which made me believe that I would enjoy the whole thing We tend to forget that on the scale of living things we are massive To us reality may seem human sized but in truth ninety five percent of all animal species are smaller than the human thumb And While we can't say for certain whether reality exists independently of an observer what we do know is that the physical world is far stranger than what our eyes perceive For one thing we commonly think of our bodies as separate and distinct from the external world but modern science tells us that there is no “out there”; indeed there is no place where your body ends and the world begins In retrospect this first section on Biological Blind Spots seems intended to prove that humans are both insignificant in the scheme of the wider universe and unentitled to claim supremacy over the Earth and its other inhabitants Part Two Societal Blind Spots focusses on where our food comes from where our energy comes from and where our waste goes and it is mainly about pollution and climate change and the mistreatment of factory farmed animals I don't eat mammals myself but I found the phrase “Most bacon comes from pigs that were put in a gas chamber” to be unnecessarily provocative but I was downright offended by the following a few pages later After the Second World War and the Holocaust we may have thought that the grotesue horrors of gas chambers has been ended but for animals the method was reintroduced in the 1980s and '90s and gas chambers are widely used to this day Controlled Atmospheric Stunning CAS is considered a humane method for rendering pigs and poultry insensible before slaughter But inside the gas chambers themselves there's incredible suffering To make this euivalence between the methodical extermination of humans and the modern attempt to provide a stress and pain free final few minutes for the animals we eat was deeply offensive to me and Tong had pretty much lost me from that point onward Along the same lines in writing about pollution Tong uotes paleoclimatologist Curt Stager as saying “Look at one of your fingernails Carbon makes up half of its mass and roughly one in eight of those carbon atoms recently emerged from a chimney or tailpipe” And in another alarming passage she writes There is one Matrix pin drop before we move on Because half of the nitrogen in our food chain is now synthetically made half of the nitrogen in your DNA comes from a Haber Bosch factoryI did find it surprising to read that a full two percent of the world's energy use is devoted to the Haber Bosch process which synthesises nitrogen from the air; which enabled the green revolution; which led to nothing but too many humans overburdening the planet; damn the eyes of Haber and Bosch both but after the first section of the book – which stresses that every atom in our body was formed in the nucleus of some long dead star – I couldn't get myself worked up about where the nitrogen or carbon now in my body had found itself recently That “Matrix pin drop” drama feels as beneath an author trying to make a serious argument as referencing the Holocaust while discussing abattoirs The final third of the book Civilizational Blind Spots reads like your typical defense of tearing down Capitalism The first chapter of this section laments the invention of timekeeping because once time could be measured the hours of a person's day could be bought and sold; which led to today's rat race and the second laments the invention of measuring lengths because what could be measured could suddenly be owned from a family's plot to a nation's borders At the end of each of these chapters Tong points out with a dire warning that since the nanosecond and the metre now have standardised measurements based on atoms and wavelengths they have been completely removed from the human scale making these artificial constructs utterly invisible to us To which I say So what?? The book ends with the most pernicious reality bubble of all The idea that any of us could possibly own anything Tong apparently finds it ridiculous for a person to believe they have any say at all about where their possessions go after they die I agree with Tong that there's something wrong with a system that sees the top twenty six richest people have as much wealth as the bottom fifty percent and it feels loathsome to consider ghost homes investment properties owned in major cities by the super rich; most of which sit empty for the majority of the year while thousands go homeless but I don't know if the solution is to ban ownership I'm not sure if I completely understand the point she is trying to make in the following Property whether it's an object a cow or a slave does not have right of movement without the owner's consent “It” cannot change its conditions even if it's unhappy because it has no rights The key point here is that rights are incompatible with ownership when it comes to living things After all if rivers and chimpanzees have rights what's next? Will our bacon and eggs demand freedom? Our lumber and paper? Our leather shoes and our wool sweaters? All of this life or extinguished life is defined as our property to do with as we please To begin to uestion that fundamental authority of our ownership of life would be to upend our whole system of thinking That's because the core tenet of our entire economic system can be eviscerated by asking one simple uestion which is What does it even mean to “own” something anyway? I appreciate that these are all themes that Tong is passionate about but they didn't add up to some meaningful eye opening experience for me I reckon that the only readers Tong will be able to wake up with this book is those who already consider themselves woke I love reading science fiction and you might expect me to open this review with an encomium of how science fiction helps us imagine a way into a better future But no One of the reasons I love science fiction is for how it asks us to truly confront our assumptions about the way things are and whether that’s inevitableSo many science fiction stories involving artificial intelligence place that intelligence into humanoid or human like android bodies Yet other stories imagine AI as something truly posthuman something so incredibly different from us in perception and ability as to be truly alien no matter its origin There’s a powerful moment in the last season of Battlestar Galactica when Number One one of the human form Cylons rails against the unfairness that has saddled him with the biological limitations of human eyesight human senses human language “I want to see gamma rays hear X rays smell dark matter” His passionate performance conveys a truly tragic sense that he feels trapped that the embodiment that to the struggling remnants of humanity seemed like the ultimate upgrade for the formerly “toaster” Cylons is in fact a sick joke for him It all comes down to perception and to how we see the worldIn The Reality Bubble science communicator extraordinaire Ziya Tong challenges our own understanding of how we see the world She asks us to really dig deep into our perception of physical reality and how it affects our conception of reality our mental map of the world Understand that I’m not exaggerating here when I say that pretty much every chapter if not every page of this book is a revelation in some way I mean I consider myself a fairly well educated human and it’s true that I was familiar in broad terms with much of what Tong discusses herein Yet every chapter goes deeper into these topics As the subtitle of the book promises this entire work focuses on the idea of the blind spots that we intentionally or unintentionally suffer throughout our lifetimes—and beyond It is remarkably coherent and well organized for something that is uneuivocally polemical in its condemnation of capitalism’s overreachIn Part One Tong discusses what she calls “biological blind spots” Basically these are things we can’t see because of inherent limitations in our biology These include the world of microorganisms as well as the parts of the colour spectrum that are invisible to us By establishing how what we don’t see shapes our world as much as what we do see Tong lays the groundwork for the thesis that runs throughout the book here namely that we should be mindful of how our perceptions of the physical world bias our internal mental map of the world It’s in this section that I learned 20 percent of our oxygen comes not from trees or even algae but from a humble cyanobacterium called ProchlorococcasIn Part Two Tong moves on to “societal blind spots” As you might guess these are constructs of human society that we nonetheless fail to see—often through a certain level of willful blindness on our part She discusses the way meat industry power generation oil and other resource extraction and the trashrecycling industry She ties these together through an emphasis on the scale of these procedures The culmination of a globalized economy post–World War II combined with the technological fervour of the ebullient 1950s in the West basically set the stage for the mass consumer culture that demanded these industries by built as they areIn the final part which is nearly half the entire book Tong discusses “civilizational blind spots” With chapters titled the likes of “Time Lords” and “Space Invaders” you’d be forgiven for expecting flights of speculative fancy Yet Tong remains grounded for the entire book Those chapters are about the arbitrary ways in which we have scientifically constructed and divided up divisions of time and space respectively and how colonialism and globalization have propagated these notions around the world The final chapter “Revolution” summarizes Tong’s arguments and pleads for us to radically rethink how we approach the worldI’m a huge fan of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything for the simple reason that it really captures the interconnectedness of our universe As I sit here on my deck writing this review I’m breathing oxygen produced by plants and indeed cyanobacteria lounging in a chair mostly made from plastic and artificial fibres manufactured somewhere in oh likely China and transported around the world through an intricate supply chain a century or in the making I couldn’t help but be reminded of Bryson’s style while reading The Reality Bubble because Tong has done exactly the same thingThis is a book designed to make you think Hard It’s designed to make you uestion It doesn’t offer a lot in the way of answers; Tong isn’t trying to sell you on some miracle plan that’s going to fix the whole planet Rather she just wants us to cast off the complacency that often settles on us as a conseuence of living in such a fast paced on demand society wherein the wheels and gears of the machines that drive us are often hidden from view Tong wants us to pull back the curtain and look at the wizard and ask some critical uestions about his supply chain infrastructure And that’s probably a very good idea I often give my English students a project I call the Lifecycle of a Product It’s pretty obvious what it entails pick an everyday product you use research its manufacturing lifecycle from raw materials to wherehow it gets disposed and then present your findings as a media text Beforehand we discuss globalization and what that means for our society Because I feel like it’s my job as a teacher not just to teach my students how to use PowerPoint but to actually euip them to ask the hard uestions in life I want them to think and I want them to wonder and I want them to want to know where their cup of coffee comes from and what that actually costs us beyond the couple of dollars they might not even physically exchange for the drink I want them to remember that our reality is a curious combination of physical stimulus and social construction and sometimes it’s so hard to divine which is which or to decide what to do about it We do not see the world as it is we see through filters of senses and shared ideas Sometimes this warps our perceptions in dangerous way that threaten our survival not only are we in sensory bubbles but ideological bubbles that we call Common Sense Blinders to things like where our food and energy come from or where our waste products go are setting us up for a fall From cool science to reimagining politics the book has both This was a hard book to rate because some of the chapters were really interesting but others were really hard to readIt's hard to sum up what this book is actually about It's a non fiction book that encompasses biology philosophy physics chemistry sociology psychology and religionOne of the main themes of this book is climate change It analyses climate change with a lot of scientific evidenceI think that was one of the main reasons I struggled with this book It was very fact heavy with a lot of foot notes and scientific evidenceWhile the writing style was generally uite easy to read the sheer amount of facts maths and science was not I didn't understand a lot of it and I don't think the average reader would either If you are interested in climate change from a scientific perspective I think you would benefit from picking this up Do I think that this book could put a lot of readers in a reading slump? SureOverall this was an interesting but dense look at a variety of topics with the most prominent themes being about climate change If the history of science over the last 450 years has taught us anything it is that there is a major mismatch between perception and reality The invisible forces so important to our understanding of the world—from heliocentrism and gravity to evolution and microorganisms—were discovered only by scientists bold and radical enough to see what everyone else was blind to It is only through the extension of our senses and the transcendence of our cognitive limitations that we have made any progress in our knowledge of the world at all That human sensation and perception is limited is a major understatement humans can see less than 1 percent of the electromagnetic spectrum visible light making us literally blind to 99 percent of it Other animals can not only see better and farther than us many have greater sensitivity to a wider range of colors while others can see ultraviolet and infrared light and even magnetic fields We are deaf to most freuencies and incapable of experiencing many smells tastes and sensations We are blind to the smallest scales and to the trillions of bacterial cells that inhabit our bodies and to the farthest reaches of the known universe 46 billion light years across These blind spots collectively and colossally distort our picture of reality While evolution has euipped us like other animals with a niche psychological profile that allows us to navigate the environment and survive our sensory apparatus provides access to only an infinitesimally small sliver of reality This small sliver is the psychological bubble that we all inhabit and if we want to learn about the true nature of reality that reuires viewing the world through the corrective lenses of science In The Reality Bubble Ziya Tong euips the reader with these corrective lenses exposing 10 blind spots that persistently deceive us By understanding our limitations we come to see that reality is not what it seems and that we have to work hard to overcome the biases that consistently plague the human mind Science while fundamentally provisional is the only reliable method we can use to get closer to the truth In the first part of the book Tong covers three biological blind spots that “would have us believe that we are the centre of the universe isolated and separate from the world around us and superior to all other creatures” We not only have the perceptual limitations mentioned above but we also have a sense of exceptionalism that tells us that the universe revolves around us that everything happens for our benefit and that we are the only animals that have the capacity to feel think and communicate As Tong shows this is demonstrably false and she covers many fascinating studies in animal behavior and physiology that demonstrate that animals likely experience rich emotional lives Emotions did not spontaneously generate themselves exclusively in human brains; to think this would be to believe as Tong states in a form of neo creationism or in a “decapitated theory of evolution” As the primatologist Frans de Waal wrote this type of thinking “accepts evolution but only half of itIt views our minds as so original that there is no point comparing it to other minds except to confirm its exceptional status”Our shared evolutionary history with other animals means that our emotional profile is also than likely shared and although we can never know exactly what it’s like to experience the world from an animal’s perspective we can be reasonably sure that there IS a perspective and that animals are not simply biological robotsThis recognition of animal emotion transitions us into the second part of the book where Tong investigates another blind spot where our food comes from If we could all spend a day at a factory farm we’d all probably give up eating meat but since we don’t we stay blind to the suffering of animals and go on accepting the view that humans have a right to own enslave torture and sell life But that’s just the tip of the iceberg regarding our social blind spots We are also blind to where our energy comes from and where our waste goes and of course to climate change You can’t see carbon dioxide concentration or experience global average temperatures so it’s no wonder that it is so easily dismissed or ignored regardless of what most experts in climate science thinkThe third part of the book covers intergenerational blind spots including our distorted conceptions of time space ownership and money The key idea is that we are so used to the way things are that we not only stop uestioning them we’re not even aware that things could be any other way This is of course why philosophy and science are so important They keep active inuiry alive and inoculate us from those who seek to exploit our complacency for their own benefit No wonder tyrants have no use for philosophy science reasoned debate or the institutions that support them We all live in a consumer society that is largely materialistic because we all believe that this is the best way to structure society Most of us don’t even give it a second thought We divide our days into 8 hour shifts and produce massive uantities of things that don’t really make us happier or fulfilled We then consume them to no end throwing away millions of products we once clad for but have grown numb to all the while making the rich richer and polluting the planet Perhaps this isn’t the best way to structure society The counter argument of course is that life has gotten appreciably better; life expectancy has increased as has leisure time literacy rates and access to knowledge while violence war and poverty have all declined Surely we’ve done some things right and although we have some blind spots the tone of the book misses this optimistic picture There is something to be said of this view but it does rely uite uncomfortably on the outcomes of climate change if the conseuences are anything near as bad as predicted all of our gains will have been achieved at the expense of future generations So while we can celebrate our progress and accomplishments we should take seriously the idea that we should probably stop destroying the planet and all of its non human life in addition to the idea that wealth could be euitably distributed and that our lives should be oriented around something meaningful than the latest iPhone iteration My only complaints about the book are that it didn’t cover enough psychology and it ignored one of our biggest collective blind spots—religion First one might expect that cognitive biases and fallacies of reasoning would occupy a prominent role in the book but most of the content is sociological rather than psychological This isn’t really a big issue but it might not be what you’re expecting There were moments where I felt that the author could have delved deeper into the psychology especially that of conformance as one exampleSecond it was surprising to me to not see any space dedicated to religion in the section on intergenerational blind spots If anything can distort reality and run counter to the ideals of science and to the stated ideals of the book it is religion The author is willing to expose any views not entirely consistent with reality yet is unwilling to address the elephant in the room that is religion I understand that this is a touchy subject but science is about delivering uncomfortable truths The author praises radical thinkers that subvert common views with rational science yet is unwilling to do so in this area Remember that the first part of the book discussed biological blind spots that “would have us believe that we are the centre of the universe isolated and separate from the world around us and superior to all other creatures” Funny because this is exactly what most religions do Christianity for example makes the rather humble claim that God in his infinite power and wisdom created the entire universe just for us So religion can not only distort reality it can also cause serious social harm; after all if you think that God has a plan to return to earth and save all of humanity you’re not going to be especially concerned with something small like climate change Considering the ubiuity of religion it seems like maybe this is something the author should have addressed If I can recommend one book to my friends this year it would be this one Please have a read and then re read again We are blind to our blindnessZiya Tong's The Reality Bubble illuminates the various psychological bubbles that we perceive as reality In three parts she deftly navigates our biological collective and intergenerational blind spots Our ocular blindness to microorganisms like fleas enables the use of agrochemicals to exterminate them and our labeling of such species as pests The result has been a sharp decline in insect populations As human beings we judge and assign value to organisms based on their size but size is not only relative it's also a visual construct The smallest organisms like bacteria have had a significant impact on the earth and human life We have bacteria in our bodies than cells and there are facial and bellybutton microbial species that can only be seen microscopically; that humans are ignorant to these microorganisms should not lessen their importance And yet some animal species are literally shrinking while human populations expand upwards and outwards This ocular blindness also extends to matter as well as animal intelligence and consciousness We perceive the physical world as solid when it's really uite porous And we de value animal intelligence and consciousness because of our belief in human exceptionalism–the centrality of humans to the universeTong's discussion of collective and intergenerational blind spots is absolutely fascinating and broad in scope She examines our ignorance to food production and processes the use of artificial coloring and feed additives to produce a fresh look to consumers the global water crisis waste and the use of animal remains to make Jello and photographic film Her most compelling chapters are the ones on time space and measurement We take these things for granted because they've been standardized; we create artificial rules on the world around us but we've forgotten the act of creating Reality is an illusion we created and we adhere to it We've forgotten that it's a product of our minds and not the physical world We have as Tong convincingly argues collective amnesia Moreover we believe wrongly that we can own the world in which we inhabit So how do we penetrate the reality bubble? We change the way we think about ourselves and the world We need a paradigm shift to change our perception of reality and who better to perform the task than scientists? The research that went into this book is awe inspiring but perhaps summer was not the best time to read it I learned many tidbits but found it reuired a great deal of focus which I struggled with I probably would have liked to rank this as a 4 for research but the 3 was related to readability I think many would struggle to get through the important messages and I would have liked to give it a 35 That being said I will think differently about eating chicken try to eat with a vegetarian focus and buy local as much as I can I was already concerned about plastic but will be vigilant in considering my purchases and adopting a minimalist lifestyle except maybe books everything I read now explains to me that everyone including me really should be vegan and I won't say it's a sign but obviously it's a signThis book is like what I imagine Sapiens to be about but like fun and science instead of the LLC is a masterpiece of human genius Could not put it down There is so much important knowledge in these pages and told in such an entertaining wayEvery now and then a book comes along that fundamentally changes my perceptions of the world and how I relate to it This is one of those rare and precious books As a society we really are living in a fantasy of our own making and the author shows us exactly how in so many different ways When it comes to reality what we see is not what we get and as humans our perspective is not the only one It is a critiue on the humanist world view that despite our uniue talents as humans our species is the only one that matters and our perspective is just one amongst the many species with whom we share this planet with What we experience and believe does not track onto the world that we are actually living in and how those misperceptions are having a profound impact on other life forms the environment which sustains us and our physical and mental wellbeing I'd recommend this great book to anyone interested in science or philosophy or those who just want to consider our universe from a different perspective

The Reality Bubble PDF/EPUB ☆ The Reality  eBook
  • Hardcover
  • 366 pages
  • The Reality Bubble
  • Ziya Tong
  • 10 July 2016
  • 9780735235564