Within our heads, we carry around an infinite and endlessly unfolding map of the world. Navigation is one of the most ancient neural abilities we have – older even than language – and in Dark and Magical Places, Christopher Kemp embarks on a journey to discover the remarkable extent of what our minds can do.
From the secrets of supernavigators to the strange, dreamlike environments inhabited by people with 'place blindness', he will explore the myriad ways in which we find our way. Kemp explains the cutting-edge neuroscience that is transforming our understanding of it – and tries to answer why, for a species with a highly-sophisticated internal navigation system that evolved over millions of years, do humans get lost such a lot?
Christopher Kemp is an English scientist and science journalist. He works at Michigan State University, overseeing a research group that studies Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. He is the author of Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris and The Lost Species: Great Expeditions in the Collections of Natural History Museums.
"Chris Kemp may not be able to find his way out of a stairwell, but he has quickly and with no false turns made his way to the top of my list of favorite science writers [...] A natural storyteller, a deft explainer, and a terrific and funny writer."
– Mary Roach, author of Fuzz
"Brilliant and beguiling"
– Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Flight of the Diamond Smugglers
"As entertaining as it is enlightening"
– Book of the Month, Geographical Magazine
"Captivating [...] will alter the way you see and move through the world."
– M. R. O'Connor, author of Wayfinding
"As a person who often finds myself lost in cities and forests alike, I was thrilled to discover this book, a dazzling-at times dizzying-exploration of brains and places, how they trouble one another and how they a give one another meaning."
– Robert Moor, bestselling author of On Trails
"A fascinating and sneakily amusing book [...] Christopher Kemp is an elegant and quick-witted writer who, feeling perpetually and hopelessly lost himself, is perfectly qualified to lead us through some of the most complicated and discombobulating corners of human cognition."
– John Mooallem, author of This Is Chance!
"A modern look inside the brain written as beautifully as a long-form poem. Don't miss this opportunity to let Kemp show you the how and why of where."
– David Eagleman, Stanford neuroscientist, author of Incognito and Livewired
"With the exception of 'who am I?', there is no more fundamental human question than 'where am I?' Part of the thrill of reading Dark and Magical Places is the realization that, for scientists, this is still an open question. Too many attempts to explain neuroscience to a nonscientific audience treat the brain as a conquered frontier. With remarkable clarity and concision, Kemp takes us through the darkness, unraveling the magic of human navigation and orientation. This is a journey to the center of the mind led by a navigator who understands that the journey is as important as the destination."
– Greg Milner, author of Pinpoint