Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

WILD SIGNS AND STAR PATHS: The Keys to Our Lost Sense

WILD SIGNS AND STAR PATHS: The Keys to Our Lost Sense
19 Jun
2018
by Tristan Gooley • Sceptre Books • £20 (hardback)

New research has shown how addictive smart phone apps can be - the red badges of notifications and the blinking ellipsis on messenger apps tease our brains by signifying that a piece of information is about to drop. In a similar way, we are wired to associate traffic signs with information. We have linked their specific colours and easy shapes with more complex ideas such as an upcoming roundabout or a narrowing road. Knowing what they mean is a quick way to anticipate what is ahead.

Nature takes these shortcuts too. Rabbits alert each other with their white tails, a robin recognises another by the red of its feathers, and both will fly away from the short neck-shape of a predatory bird. ‘Evolution has taught animals the simplest signs,’ writes Tristan Gooley, ‘and therefore the fastest keys for each task.’ The same ‘fast-thinking’ allows humans to tell the difference between a threatening column of a storm cloud and a harmless cumulus. Modern life, however, has reduced our need for many other signs, argues Gooley. We have become a little rusty. The good news? It is possible to redevelop this ‘sixth sense’.

His book works as a guide, linking hundreds of natural signs with information, such as how to find south from the shape of trees, or from the constellation of Orion at night

He starts with the basics, devoting early chapters to what we can learn from wind direction. ‘Our task can be simplified by understanding the types of signs that are profitable and steering our attention towards them,’ he says. Gooley’s approach is a refreshing alternative to the encyclopaedic-style of many nature books. Instead, he focuses on broader patterns and rules, with enthusiasm. ‘Very little in our surroundings is random,’ he writes, ‘and with a little practice we can learn to sense things that we may find astonishing.’

Click here to purchase Wild Signs and Star Paths by Tristan Gooley via Amazon

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Books

by John Higgs • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £20/£11 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Lewis Dartnell • Bodley Head • £18.99 (hardback)

Books

by Richard Williams • Polity Books • £15.99 (paperback)

Books

by Nicholas Jubber • John Murray Press • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Rob Dunn • Basic Books • £22.99 (hardback)

Books

by Edward Davey • Unbound • £9.99 (paperback)

Exhibitions

From July 2019 to February 2020, the Oxford University Natural…

Books

by Stephen Smith • Polity Books • £15.99 (paperback)

Books

by David Barrie • Hodder & Stoughton • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Juliet Blaxland • Sandstone Press • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Bill McKibben • Wildfire • £20 (hardback)

Exhibitions

A new exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery flies forward 100…

Exhibitions

From 12 July through to 10 November, the Fondation Cartier…

Reviews

A relaxed podcast, in which actor David Oakes interviews professionals…

Exhibitions

Exploring ideas of identity, heritage and life after trauma, Bahith…

Books

by Alex Rogers • Wildfire • £20 (hardback)

Films

An ‘environmental thriller’ focusing on the lives of campaigners working…

Exhibitions

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition is open to visitors…

Films

In this moving, sometimes harrowing film from director Anthony Woodley,…

Films

A brutal, hard-hitting coming-of-age tale that doesn’t hold its punches