The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, And The Dangerous Illusions That Shape Our World by Ziya TongThe Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, And The Dangerous Illusions That Shape Our World by Ziya Tong

The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, And The Dangerous Illusions That Shape Our World

byZiya Tong

Hardcover | April 2, 2019

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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 ways.

Our naked eyes see only a thin sliver of reality.

We 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 intelligence.

And we are blind compared to the animals that can see in infrared, or ultraviolet, or in 360-degree vision. These animals live in the same world we do, but they see something quite different when they look around.

With 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 spots.

First, 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 hole.

In 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 21st 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 future.

Lastly, 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 more than traditions, ways of seeing the world that have come to harm it.

This 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 more to the world than meets the eye.
Award-winning broadcaster, ZIYA TONG anchored Daily Planet, Discovery Channel''s flagship science program until its final season in 2018. Tong also hosted the CBC''s Emmy-nominated series ZeD, PBS''s national prime-time series, Wired Science, and worked as a correspondent for NOVA scienceNOW alongside Neil deGrasse Tyson on PBS.
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Title:The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, And The Dangerous Illusions That Shape Our WorldFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:376 pages, 9.27 X 6.46 X 1.1 inShipping dimensions:376 pages, 9.27 X 6.46 X 1.1 inPublished:April 2, 2019Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0735235562

ISBN - 13:9780735235564

Appropriate for ages: All ages

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Read from the Book

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said that “the aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.” Put another way, we often can’t see what’s right in front of our noses. We’ve all experienced it: looking everywhere for your keys when they are staring right at you from the kitchen counter.   Individually, we can be blind to the obvious, but collec­tively, as a society, we can be blind as well. Here’s a curious fact to consider: in the twenty-first century, there are cameras everywhere, except where our food comes from, where our energy comes from, and where our waste goes. How is it, then, that the most powerful species on the planet is blind to how it survives?   You might say that modern humans interface with nature as though we live in a bubble. It’s the reason why, in the United Kingdom, one in three young adults don’t know that eggs come from chickens, a third of children believe that cheese comes from plants, and a whopping 40 percent of youth have no idea that milk comes from cows. For these kids, food comes from where you’d think it comes from: “Duh,” the supermarket.   Now, it’s not the case that young people aren’t smart; it’s just that their focus has shifted. The average child in the United States spends forty-five hours a week looking at electronic media and only half an hour of unregulated time outdoors. That being the case, we shouldn’t be surprised that the cultural world fogs over the natural one. Immersed in this environment, the average American kid is able to recognize one thousand corporate logos but can’t name ten plants or animals native to the area in which they live.   Adults don’t fare much better. From inside the bubble, the origin of our greatest source of energy—the fuel that powers our global economy—is also a big unknown. If you take a moment to ask around, you’ll soon discover that the average person has no idea what oil is. The liquid we pump into our gas tanks to get to work doesn’t come from the pulp of dinosaurs, but every tank of gas is powered by a thousand tons of ancient life. So which dead species fuel our daily commute? And what caused those giant graveyards that pressure-cooked into the rich black oil fields we drill for energy?   Finally, we are exceptionally blind to what we waste. From excrement to trash to toxic waste, we live with the illusion that refuse can be made to disappear or, with the push of a button, be magically flushed away. That our waste goes somewhere, that our own pollution finds its way right back into the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe, is one of the reasons the human race is in such deep shit today.   The kicker is our ignorance as a species would be a lot easier to write off if we weren’t also so intelligent. After all, we are the smartest animals on Earth. We are the primates with superpowers. We can fly at the speed of sound and communicate across the planet at the speed of light. Our species has figured out how to hack DNA and change the very codes that govern life.   But the problem is that life is disappearing.   Scientists tell us we are currently in the midst of the sixth great extinction. On land, from armadillos to zebras, animal populations are plummeting. In the sea, fish stocks are crashing and coral reefs are bleaching. Glaciers are melting. Droughts are increasing. Wildfires are raging. The population is exploding and the climate is changing. The creep of catastrophe nears day by day, and yet when we reach out our arms . . . it is only to take another selfie.   That somewhere in the back of our minds we know civiliza­tion is teetering on the brink explains our cultural obsession with the zombie apocalypse. These dark fantasies don’t come from nowhere. We all know that things are going very wrong, but living in a bubble means that, for now, we get to ignore it. Instead, we playfully channel our collective unease, mocking our own fear of a seemingly imminent societal crash. From TV shows to survival guides, we “joke” about building bunkers and stockpiling weapons and food supplies. In cities around the world, tens of thousands gather in “zombie walks” dressed in ghoulish makeup and rags, limping along in a low-rumble chant for one, singular desire.   And what is it that the zombies want? The zombies want braaaains.   It’s worth asking whether we could fend for ourselves if there were no societal means for survival. Because when you think about it, our system of society works precisely because we con­form to it, like brainless zombies. The human population is almost eight billion strong, marching to a capitalist drumbeat of eat, work, shop, and sleep. Now, it might be one thing if we loved it, but we don’t. I mean, seriously, have you ever met anyone in your life who loves the rat race?   So, given that humanity faces dire consequences and that most of us don’t even like what we do, the question is: Why do we do it?   The big myth, I will argue, is that we are brought up believing there is no other way. We are simply told that this is how the system works. But what if there is another way? What if this “real world” we’re so invested in isn’t that real at all? What if we could scrub away the fog of humanity’s biggest blind spots so we can see more clearly and begin to uncover what is beyond our reality bubble?   Proust famously said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” And so our journey must begin right where we are: by seeing the ordi­nary, everyday world we live in, in an extraordinary new way.     In John Carpenter’s 1988 cult classic sci-fi movie They Live, a drifter named John Nada gets hold of a pair of special sunglasses that reveal “truths” that ordinary citizens can’t see. Putting them on and looking at magazine ads, billboards, or the TV, he sees their real messages: to obey, consume, conform, and stay asleep.   As a modern parable, the film struck a chord. Its influence can be seen in films, video games, and street art, like Shepard Fairey’s Obey series, and in Hal Hefner’s political posters and web memes. The film’s secret conceit is this: if only a pair of glasses like this existed, people might begin to question why reality is not what it seems.   Luckily, something like that does exist.   In this book, we will venture into the unseen world around us, but instead of fictional sunglasses we will be using scientific lenses to bring hidden views to light. That’s because scientific instru­ments are, in a very real way, our new eyes, giving us superhuman abilities to see and hear well beyond what our senses perceive.   On true crime shows, we often catch a glimpse of what modern science can reveal. A nice, tidy living room might appear perfectly ordinary to the naked eye, but once investigators have sprayed luminol—a chemical that reacts with iron in hemoglobin—and flicked off the lights, the chemical’s neon-blue glow illuminates blood splatters on the wall, revealing a grisly crime scene.   We have a tendency to think that seeing is believing, but there is so much that we don’t see unaided. The same is true for the world around us. Our vision is feeble compared with the most advanced scientific tools. Telescopes allow us to see galaxies over thirteen billion light years away, and using electron microscopes, we can zoom right down to the atomic level to see and touch the very building blocks of our universe.   In the pages ahead then, reality will at times seem bizarre and disorienting. Like falling down a rabbit hole into Wonderland. We will shrink in size, grow into giants, and even find ourselves understanding the languages of other animals. Applying this scientific lens to the world around us radically alters our old ideas about the world, allowing us to question what surrounds us, what sustains us, and, perhaps most importantly, what controls us. As a science broadcaster and journalist, I have spent more than a decade interviewing and learning from the world’s top scientists and thinkers. One of the great advantages of working with scientists from many different fascinating fields is that it has given me a broad spectrum of scientific knowledge to draw from, allowing me to share and communicate expertise from a wide range of disciplines. These different disciplines are like pieces in a puzzle. Individually, each gives us a clue as to what’s going on, but only by putting them together can we see the bigger picture.   And now more than ever, we need to see clearly, because we are at a critical juncture in human history. Our species is locked on a deadly collision course, one that threatens to extinguish life on Earth precisely because our vision of reality is incompat­ible with scientific truth. Instead, what we call “common sense” thinking has blinded us for far too long.   In this book, we will examine ten of humanity’s biggest blind spots. Section One begins with an introduction to the blind spots we are born with as individuals, and reveals how science and technology allow us to see beyond our biological limits. With this new form of sight, we will journey through the everyday world to uncover what our own eyes are unable to perceive.   In Section Two, we will look at our collective blind spots and investigate how as a society we engage in willful blindness. We’ll focus on the most critical aspects of our basic biology—our food, energy, and waste—and see how science has radically transformed the support system our lives depend on, and engineered a world that to the average person is almost entirely opaque.   Finally, in Section Three, we will examine intergenerational blind spots. These are ways of thinking about the world that seem natural or inevitable but are in fact inherited world views passed on from generation to generation. Here we will examine how we navigate the grand dimensions of time and space like the prover­bial fish that knows not the water in which it swims.   Carl Sagan once said that “our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.” This book is a humble effort to respond to that need. So let us begin.

Editorial Reviews

“In a time of mounting global crisis, the kind of radical curiosity that fills this book — a commitment to probing the unseen, unknowable, and unthinkable — has become essential to our survival. In Ziya Tong''s hands, we learn that it can be joyous, too, with thrilling facts, questions, and juxtapositions on every page. A kaleidoscopic guide to everything we''re missing.” —Naomi Klein“This book will tear through your preconceptions like a meteor through space. Ziya Tong is a wonderfully erudite companion on a tour of reality, from the very smallest to the size of the universe and everything in between. It’s an incredibly illuminating and challenging but ultimately empowering book, and reading it delivers a shock almost on the level as when Neo took the red pill in The Matrix. Prepare to have your bubble well and truly burst.” —Rowan Hooper, New Scientist“The Reality Bubble grabs your metaphoric lapels and rattles your mental cage. Page after page, Ziya Tong provides clear lenses for looking at the world, and entertainingly insists we use them—like, now, please. If you don’t want to destabilize your conceptions of space, time, biology, and geography, I suggest you back away slowly.” —Adam Rogers, WIRED “Filled with entertaining, often surprising, information, The Reality Bubble reveals how science enables us to ‘see’ beyond the constraints of our physical and psychic barriers and recognize the consequences.  Ziya Tong’s book should be required reading for all who care about what we are doing to the planet. —David Suzuki, broadcaster and author of The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering our Place in Nature "Ziya Tong takes readers on an important and entertaining scientific journey, as she breaks open all the hidden ways we interact with the natural world every day. Read this book to start seeing—with new eyes—how we can transform our relationship with the extraordinary planet we live on."  —Dr. Jane Goodall“Humans have a warped perception of reality. Ziya Tong pierces through this collective fog, using a scientific lens to show us our place in the world as it really is. With a journalist’s eye for drama, she uses examples from both the history of science and the latest research to expose uncomfortable truths about the short-sighted ways we produce food and energy and dispose of waste, which are jeopardizing life on Earth. Her arguments compel us to look sharp—we remain in this reality bubble at our own peril.” —Kate Wong, Scientific American“With curiosity and humor, Tong mixes science, philosophy, and history in a book filled with revelations big and small” —Grist“Not only is this book a delightful tour of scientific wonders, but it''s also a profound meditation on why humans have such a hard time getting out of our bubbles and changing our ways. With grace and humor, Ziya Tong reveals our blind spots--both literal and philosophical—and guides us toward a better future that we can face with both eyes open.” —Annalee Newitz, founder of io9 author of Scatter Adapt and Remember “A book this audacious, inventive, and soulful shouldn’t also be so much fun to read. Ziya Tong scours the universe of human knowledge to reframe how we see the world and our place in it.” —Elan Mastai, author of All Our Wrong Todays“The Reality Bubble has opened eyes I didn''t even know I had. It is so hard to explain how we humans perceive the world, knowing that we can''t tell if we all perceive it the same way. This is where Ziya is beyond brilliant: She breaks down how our individual constructions of reality are far more artificial than we realize, which will leave me trying to answer a whole lot of existential questions for some time to come.” —Derek Mead, executive editor, global, VICE“Human beings are built to detect short-range, near-term threats, and yet our social fabric (and maybe even our species itself) depends on learning to detect the stuff that never directly touches us. In The Reality Bubble, Ziya Tong delivers an energetic crash course in this mismatch between our evolutionary gifts and our circumstances. The blind spots she describes are the ones that keep us from internalizing the threat of climate change, the dangers of political manipulation via social networks—even the difficulty of saving for retirement. The physiological and cognitive basis of our reality bubble is something we have to learn about ourselves to get out in front of humanity’s biggest problems, and Tong explains the subject, without judgement or derision, in a way that will benefit us all.” —Jacob Ward, NBC News Technology Correspondent, host of the PBS series Hacking Your Mind, and former editor-in-chief of Popular Science“The world we inhabit is not what it appears to our senses to be. In The Reality Bubble, Ziya Tong takes us on a fascinating, whirlwind tour through many unfamiliar aspects of the reality we thought we knew. It is both sobering and mind-blowing to realize how deeply immersed we are in previously hidden realms which science has revealed to us but which most of us ignore at our peril. Tong is an able guide, leading us through the maze of illusions, and helping us to shed our veils of delusion. She illuminates the unseen, and often dangerous, bubbles within which we live out our lives.” —David Grinspoon, Senior Scientist at Planetary Science Institute and prize-winning author of Earth in Human Hands."Ziya has been reading and thinking about our environments, large and small, for years, and this is the result. She reminds us again and again of the idea of shifting baselines. We accommodate to much of what we experience, moving from surprise to acceptance, recalibrating all the way. This book urges us to be vigilant against that” —Jay Ingram, television and radio host, and author of The Science of Why “Amid the screaming alarms of the Anthropocene—species collapse, habitat loss, social pathologies—Ziya Tong takes a sledgehammer to the bad ideas that brought us to the brink of apocalypse: unbridled capitalism, technological escapism, species-centrism. Equal parts disaster novel and postmodern cabinet of wonders (and terrors), The Reality Bubble makes a passionate, rationalist case for saving the planet before we back off history’s cliff, selfie sticks in hand.” —Mark Dery, author of I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-By Essays on American Dread, American Dreams “[The Reality Bubble] promises to be a confluence of ethical, sociological, technological and environmental insights, rigorously investigated, shared in a scintillating way" —Ian Elliott of A Different Drummer Books (From Rabble’s “Canadian Indies on what to read in 2019”)“Our blind spots, however, don’t just separate us from wonder – they also keep us from reality. And in her book, Ziya also challenges us to identify and eliminate our deliberate ignorance, not just for self-advancement but for collective preservation” —Elaine “Lainey” Lui, co-host "The Social", reporter on "etalk”, and founder of the website Lainey Gossip