Why Is a Great Gray Owl like a Victorian Ear Trumpet?

Sometimes finding hope requires shifting our gaze from humanity. In this episode of Book Dreams, we take an up-close and uplifting look at the four-eyed spook fish, the great gray owl, the star-nosed mole, and even the bloodthirsty vampire bat. Our guest, Jackie Higgins–author of Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses–shares riveting details about the sensory capabilities of these animals: the great gray owl’s soundlessness and uncanny hearing, for instance; the spook fish’s ability to see in the lightless depths of the ocean; the star-nosed mole’s lightning-fast touch. Jackie explains, too, how a consideration of the sensory capabilities of these creatures helps us, in turn, better understand similar talents that often lie dormant within us. Finally, we talk with Jackie about how an in-depth knowledge of the sensory capacities of other animals is helping scientists who are grappling with issues like noise pollution and sustainable development.


Jackie Higgins is a science writer whose first book, Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses, was deemed a “masterpiece of science and nature writing” by The Washington Post. A graduate of Oxford University with an MA in zoology, Jackie has worked for Oxford Scientific Films for over a decade, as well as for National Geographic, PBS Nova, and the Discovery Channel. She has also written, directed, and produced films at the BBC Science Department.




Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses


“[A] masterpiece of science and nature writing.”Washington Post


“Illuminating…an extraordinary book.” The Wall Street Journal


"Sentient is a revelatory book. Exploring animals' beyond-human senses opens to us whole new realms of experience. Thank you, Jackie Higgins, for enlarging our understanding of what the world looks, feels, tastes, and smells like." —Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus


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Jackie Higgins

Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses, by Jackie Higgins

Eve Yohalem

Julie Sternberg

Book Dreams Podcast

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