The Reality Bubble

Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World

  • Language:
  • English (U.S./Canada)
    Penguin Canada
  • English (Audio - U.S./Canada)
    Penguin Random House Canada
  • English (U.K./ANZ)
  • Chinese (Complex)
    Babel Publishing Group
  • Dutch
    Uitgeverij JEA
  • Italian
    Aboca Edizioni
  • Korean
    Cocoon Books
  • Lithuanian
    Liutai Ne Avys
  • Portuguese (Portugal)
    Lua de Papel/Grupo Leya
  • Spanish
    Ariel/Grupo Planeta
About The Reality Bubble:

In the late 1600s, French physicist Edme Mariotte discovered a quirk of human anatomy that is familiar to anyone who drives a car: the blind spot.

Mariotte’s discovery of the human blind spot is an important reminder that we don’t always have a complete picture of our surroundings.  To put it more bluntly, we often don’t see what’s right in front of us.
That stark reality is more critical than ever today, as the natural order of our planet is under relentless assault by the human beings that inhabit it.  From the synthetic production of our food and the fabrication of our borders to the microscopic creatures that control our life support systems, most of the world operates outside our field of view.

In this profound and compelling narrative that challenges our basic assumptions about the world, Tong, a former Discovery Channel anchor and PBS host, shows us how a multitude of blind spots, some innate and some learned, distort our perception of reality and endanger our very survival.  As Tong explains, we live in a bubble, oblivious to the workings of the real world that are conveniently hidden from plain sight.

How else do we explain the troubling finding that one in three children believe that cheese comes from plants?  Sadly, a similar percentage of children don’t realize that eggs come from chickens and even more young people are unaware that cows produce milk.

Blending captivating science and entertaining ideas, The Reality Bubble is best described as a cross between The Matrix and the science series Cosmos.  It is a unique and urgent work of non-fiction that promises to open our eyes, expand our view of the world, and disrupt hardened ideas, allowing us to question what surrounds us, what sustains us, and perhaps most importantly, what controls us.

Awards, Nominations, and Distinctions:

Longlist – RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction

Ten Best Science Books of the Year –

Finalist – RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction

Winner – Lane Anderson Award

Critical Praise:

"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

"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

"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."


"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 judgment 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

"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

"From a chimpanzee with a photographic memory to beetles that navigate by means of the Milky Way, Tong’s revelatory examples inspire a sense of wonder. In doing so, the author succeeds in highlighting the folly of the idea of human exceptionalism and how, if we are to survive as a species, we need to get very good at scale, and fast. But she doesn’t preach, nailing the “show don’t tell” technique that is so important in such a work...It is not just a book that tells a story of humanity; it is a gentle but highly effective wake-up call."

The Guardian

"In The Reality Bubble, science broadcaster Zia Tong embarks on a vivid expedition through the science of time, space, dinosaurs, the modern surveillance state, the obscure secrets of supermarket aisles, and almost literal infinity of everyday illusions. We learn that the most shocking revelations are of what our blind spots teach us to miss, and that none of these complex phenomena are a match for her storytelling prowess. Prepare to have most of your bubbles burst!In The Reality Bubble, science broadcaster Zia Tong embarks on a vivid expedition through the science of time, space, dinosaurs, the modern surveillance state, the obscure secrets of supermarket aisles, and almost literal infinity of everyday illusions. We learn that the most shocking revelations are of what our blind spots teach us to miss, and that none of these complex phenomena are a match for her storytelling prowess. Prepare to have most of your bubbles burst!"

Jury citation for the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize

"Ziya Tong has created a powerful book that emboldens readers to realize the limitations to their perceptions of the world around them."

Citation for the 2019-2020 Lane Anderson Award

About the Author(s):

Ziya Tong is an award-winning science journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker.

From 2008 until its last and twenty-second season in 2018, Ziya served as the co-anchor of the world’s only nightly science broadcast, Daily Planet, which reached over 1.3 million weekly viewers on Discovery Channel Canada.

During her tenure at Daily Planet, she also co-anchored programs on Discovery’s Science Channel in the United States where she served as the co-host of a one-hour special on NASA’s Mars Curiosity Mission and co-anchored a special tribute to astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Prior to Daily Planet, she was a regular on-air host or correspondent on three other science programs: the host and field producer for PBS’ national primetime series, WIRED Science, produced in conjunction with WIRED magazine; the host, writer and director for the Knowledge Network science series The Leading Edge; and a field correspondent alongside Neil de Grasse Tyson on PBS’ television series, NOVA ScienceNOW.

She received her Masters Degree in communications with top honours from McGill University, and serves on the board of directors at the World Wildlife Fund.

Other Editions:
  • English Audio (U.S./Canada)

  • English (U.K./ANZ)

  • Chinese (Complex)

  • Dutch

  • Italian

  • Lithuanian

  • Portuguese

  • Spanish

  • Vietnamese