Sounds and sweet airs that give delight

Caspar Henderson writes beguiling books about the natural world, full of eyecatching detail and plangent commentary. His Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st-century Bestiary came out in 2012. A Book of Noises is a worthy companion – a pursuit of auditory wonders, a paean to the act of listening and a salute to silence. Item: the music of the spheres. (The planets’ orbits, proving unideal and elliptical, suggested to the musically minded astronomer Johannes Kepler an appropriately sad, minor-keyed leitmotif for the Earth, where, he felt, misery and famine held sway’.) Item: the world’s loudest sound. (The asteroid Chicxulub that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago; also an

Fish that swim backwards – and other natural wonders

In the Zhuangzi, a collection of tales attributed to the eponymous 4th-century BC Chinese philosopher, a frog that lives in a well boasts about its comfortable way of life to a visiting sea turtle. When the turtle describes its own existence in the vast expanse of the ocean, however, the frog has no idea what to make of it. The story is, of course, a humorous parable about typical human limitations and the possibility of stepping beyond them. But it could serve almost as well as an introduction to Ed Yong’s new book, which confirms in rich detail what Zhuangzi intuited: the nature and range of different forms of animal

Letters: why do we put up with bats?

Scottish hearts and heads Sir: Alex Massie ignores the evidence when he espouses the assumption that economic concerns no longer matter in great political decisions (‘Scottish horror’, 15 August). Compare, as he does, a future Scottish referendum with the 2016 Brexit vote. Then, around two thirds of the British electorate held ‘Eurosceptic views’ (so Sir John Curtice of Strathclyde University tells us). But the barest majority voted to Leave. The cause is plain: the largest single motive for Remain voters was that ‘the risks of voting to leave the EU looked too great when it came to things like the economy, jobs and prices’. A Eurosceptic two thirds was whittled

Letters: the NHS shutdown is hurting patients and costing lives

Poor treatment Sir: My recent experience supports Dr Max Pemberton’s view that the NHS is letting down thousands of patients (‘Nothing to applaud’, 30 May). I am a 71-year-old living alone, with no symptoms of coronavirus. For several weeks I have, however, been experiencing severe pain in my left hip. A consultation with my GP diagnosed that I needed a shot of cortisone to reduce the inflammation, but I was told that the NHS was unable to offer clinical consultations due to a focus on the crisis. I was unable to cope with the pain any longer, so my daughter arranged a private consultation and an injection at a cost