1 September 2017

Advance praise for A New Map of Wonders

A wondrous brew of science, history, and sheer exhilaration. Read it and marvel.  — Sarah Bakewell, author How to Live and At the Existentialist Cafe 
This book does exactly what it says on the cover, and shows us where wonder is to be found. His account of familiar phenomena shows how unfamiliar and extraordinary they really are. — Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials trilogy 
What a thrillingly uplifting antidote to these grim and gloomy times Caspar Henderson has created here! To be reminded of all the wonder in the world is a marvellous gift, all the more so because it is so beautifully presented. And if there is anyone who would not delight in this magical compendium of true things, they are surely the ones who need it most. — Philip Ball, author of Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything, Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen and Patterns in Nature
For Henderson, the universe is constantly birthing wonders. A book that tries to give articulate voice to the gasps of astonishment at each birth is almost bound to fail. Yet this is a glorious success: breathless but musical; humble but confident; smart, kind, and glittering. It will turn the most jaded reductionist into a delighted child. — Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast
Caspar Henderson’s writing astonishes. It crosses boundaries and defies categorisation. It is a map for the curious and a call to arms. It asks us to wonder more and to wonder better, to actually see the gifts that buffet us but also our duty to them. He is my cartographer of choice for these odd and troubled times.  — Samir Gugliani, author of Histories and director of Medicine Unboxed
Engagingly written and full of fascinations, Caspar Henderson's new book is such a delight. It's both eye-opening and awe-inspiring, as it conjures up the rich spell of Earth's wonders. — Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper's Wife and A Natural History of the Senses
For there to be science there must first be wonder.  Caspar Henderson teaches us how to wonder anew with a new vision of science illuminated by a range of literature, philosophy, art and music. He quite simply reweaves the rainbow. — Hugh Aldersey-Williams, author of Periodic Tales and Anatomies
A New Map of Wonders will be published by Granta in the UK and by Chicago University Press in the US in November 2017. Read more about the book here.

26 May 2017

An addressable reality

A poem, as a manifestation of language and, thus, essentially dialogue, can be a message in a bottle, sent out in the — not always greatly hopeful — belief that somewhere and sometime it could wash up on land, on heartland perhaps. Poems in this sense too are under way: they are making toward something. Toward what? Toward something standing open, occupiable, perhaps toward an addressable Thou, toward an addressable reality.
Paul Celan


Image: North polar region of Jupiter. MSSS/SwRI/JPL-Caltech/NASA

13 February 2017

Cover

Here is the front cover of A New Map of Wonders, which will be published in autumn 2017 by Granta in the UK and Chicago University Press in the US.


The new Granta catalogue containing a description of the book is online here

14 December 2016

Update

It has been a while since I have posted on the blog.  This is mainly because I have been busy. The manuscript of A New Map of Wonders is just about done, and the book will be published in 2017.

Here are two among many passing wonders from the last few weeks. There is no particular connection between them apart from the fact that they both expand our sense of reality.
  • Plants may ‘see’ underground by channelling light to their roots. Their stems may act like a fibre-optic cables, conducting light down to receptors in the roots known as phytochromes. These may trigger the production of a protein which promotes healthy root growth.
  • Weather systems have been observed on an exoplanet for the first time. Massive storms move across the surface of HAT-P-7b, a thousand light years away. The clouds in its atmosphere are likely made of corundum, the mineral which forms rubies and sapphires.

25 October 2016

Not a human move

[AlphaGo] doesn’t perceive the world or move within it, and the totality of its behaviour is manifest through the moves it makes on the Go board. Nevertheless, the intentional stance is sometimes useful to describe its behaviour.

...Commentating on the match, the European Go champion Fan Hui remarked: ‘It’s not a human move. I’ve never seen a human play this move. So beautiful.’ According to AlphaGo’s own estimate, there was a one-in-10,000 chance that a human would have used the same tactic, and it went against centuries of received wisdom. Yet this move was pivotal in giving it victory.
from What other kinds of minds might be out there? by Murray Shanahan

12 October 2016

"Dance all night on the shore of another world"


One legend of the Yurok people says that, far out in the Pacific Ocean but not farther than a canoe can paddle, the rim of the sky makes waves by beating on the surface of the water. On every twelfth upswing, the sky moves a little more slowly, so that a skilled navigator has enough time to slip beneath its rim, reach the outer ocean, and dance all night on the shore of another world.
from The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin

Image via California Slaughter, See also a Yurok house here

28 September 2016

First sight

When people received the digital images from the Hubble telescope, those first few eyes who are getting it on their screens   I guess it has to be something very similar to that. When I look inside our own anatomy at the time where nobody knows if we even exist it’s the same as looking at dimensions that we never imagined we would ever see because we didn’t know they existed.
Ali H. Brivanlou to Radio Lab: The Primitive Streak.


Image: Day12 human embryo in vitro. Gist Croft, Cecilia Pelligrini, Ali H. Brivanlou, The Rockefeller University.