My First Book of the Cosmos

My First Book of the Cosmos
Sheddad Kaid-Salah Ferrón and Eduard Altarriba
Button Books

Team Ferrón (physicist and writer) and Altarriba (graphic designer and illustrator) have a special skill of presenting highly complex topics to children in a manner that is accessible, entertaining and educative.

Their latest book, My First Book of the Cosmos again does just that, managing to compress the vast Universe between 56 pages taking us on a trip through the life of the Cosmos from its birth to its possible end time. Incredible!

What then is this Cosmos or Universe? The author sums it up thus ‘the Universe is everything that exists: it is all space and time, and it is where all mass and energy is found’: awesome and mysterious for sure.

First off is a look at gravity and we’re presented with the gravitational models of Newton and Einstein, followed by a look through ‘Gravitational Lenses’, the first being thought of by an amateur scientist, Rudi W. Mandl. A gravitation lens, as defined here is one that ‘works like a powerful telescope that magnifies and distorts light’.

Having examined beginnings, topics include Galaxies, and the vexed question of The size of the universe.

Then there’s an explanation of How a star is born; it’s formed from interstellar clouds of cold gas and dust called nebulae.

Next comes a look at the different types of stars – I didn’t know there were so many – as well as the life of a star from its birth to its death including how and why these happen.

Plus if you’ve ever wanted to peer into a black hole or discover the mysteries of dark matter – a very tricky matter indeed,

and those of dark energy – that which ‘separates galaxies instead of bringing them together’ – in other words, it causes the Universe to expand ever faster, you can do so here.

Mind-blowing, imagination-stretching stuff!

Discovering Energy

Discovering Energy
Eduard Altarriba, Johannes Hirn & Veronica Sanz
Button Books

In his characteristic bright, retro illustrative style, Eduard Altarriba in collaboration with writers Hirn and Sanz, both of whom are experts in physics, explores the vital topic of energy and its effects on all our lives.

After a spread on the sun’s energy, the book looks at what energy actually is including the difference between potential and kinetic energy.

It goes on to investigate the interrelationship between energy and power, exploring wind power, water power, electricity, fossil fuels, nuclear power, solar power and much more.

Historical pioneers including Aristotle, Galileo, Newton, James Watt of steam engine fame, Alessandro Volta who created the first battery and Einstein

are all introduced in relation to their contributions to our understanding of the topic.

In the light of the drastic effects of climate change on the planet and life thereon, there is a spread on the all-important area of ‘clean and green energy’ and the crucial developments that will make safe, clean, sustainable energy now and in the future.

This vast subject is one we all need to come to grips with and it’s never too soon to start learning. This enlightening book, although aimed at young audiences, could also be useful to adults who have no background at all in physics.

Discovering Architecture

Discovering Architecture
Eduard Altarriba and Berta Bardí I Milà
Button Books

The urge to build structures is seemingly, a universal human trait. I spent some of the Easter break constructing a den in a quiet woodland glade in Bushy Park, from a fallen tree trunk and branches, with 6-year old Emmanuelle and her soon to be 4, brother Samuel.

When they are ready to discover more about the build environment, this tremendous introduction should prove invaluable.

The graphic designer and illustrator Eduard Altarriba has already introduced young readers to Quantum Physics and now in a similarly engaging manner presents a look at iconic buildings through history, their creators and some of the items that might be found inside such buildings.

Starting with the earliest known building projects, the pyramids of Egypt, Iraq and Mexico, Classical Greek, Roman and Byzantine places of worship, domestic and vernacular architecture from many parts of the world, information on architects such as Antoni Gaudí, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Zaha Hadid …

readers are given a superb presentation of things and people architectural.

The final spreads focus on architecture’s basic elements – there’s a cut-away diagram of the principal parts of a building; what being an architect entails and lastly a look at what buildings might be like in the future (it’s good to see sustainability given a paragraph here).

University lecturer at the School of Architecture, UPC, Barcelona, Berta Bardí I Milá packs a wealth of absorbing information into the uncluttered spreads, so finely designed and illustrated by Altarriba.

Perfect for KS2 readers and perhaps adults wanting a starting point for the topic.

My First Book of Relativity

My First Book of Relativity
Sheddad Kaid-Salah Ferrón and Eduard Altarriba
Button Books

We had My First Book of Quantum Physics and now for a companion volume, its creators have turned their attention to another potentially complex science topic, that of relativity.

However, in the hands of this partnership, Einstein’s theory of relativity and other related aspects of connections between space and time are explained in such a way as to make them accessible to young readers. For, as it says on the back of this book, ‘it’s never too early to start exploring big ideas.’ So, how does one start?

The space-time theory, we read, can only be properly understood by first understanding what the two concepts mean in themselves; and then we’re in a position (like Einstein) to understand ‘the world through relativity’.

Time is succinctly explored – how it’s measured, by what means and the various units used.

Speed,

movement and the vital importance of frames of reference are explained, the latter using the example of a moving train and then a person in space.

There are spreads on adding up speeds and the speed of light, leading into Einstein’s two theories, special relativity and general relativity (his theory about gravity).

I love the ‘thought experiments’ relating to time dilation and clocks; and the wonderful spread whereon ten year old Alice travels to our nearest star Proxima Centauri, leaving her same aged friend  waiting for her on Earth and returning to find she’s still  ten whereas he is now almost 19, put me in mind of T.S. Eliot’s famous lines from Burnt Norton ‘Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future contained in time past.’

If only physics had been made this fascinating back in the day when I was studying it at A-level (albeit only for a few weeks before deciding it wasn’t for me).

I’d not heard of muons before reading this book – a muon being an elementary particle of the electron family weighing around 200 times more than an electron, but again found the spread using a muon to check time dilation and length contraction totally engrossing.

The book concludes with how speed increases the mass of an object; the imaginings of the young Einstein (note the word imagined is used by the author, highlighting the crucial importance of the role of the imagination in scientific discovery) and a look at the mathematical equations Einstein used to describe his ideas of special relativity, the former taking mere weeks to find, whereas he took ten years to understand the ideas themselves.

The entire topic is mind-stretchingly incredible and brilliantly explained in this book, with the aid of Eduard Altarriba’s vibrant, graphics. Strongly recommended for budding scientists either for home reading or in school.

My First Book of Quantum Physics

My First Book of Quantum Physics
Sheddad Kaid-Salah Ferrón and Eduard Altarriba
Button Books

‘A children’s science book to educate and inspire’ says the press release of this book. Does it live up to the claim? Let’s take a closer look.

In the introduction the author explains that everything we see around us is composed of minute subatomic particles and as scientists began to discover more about them, they realised that a new set of theories was needed because the laws of physics as they stood, did not apply.

Thus new theories were generated and these are what we now know as quantum physics. Moreover without this science of subatomic particles none of our favourite electronic devices, so important in our everyday lives, would exist – now there’s a thought.

I remember very little about the content of the O-level physics I studied at school – it’s amazing I managed to pass – but one thing I can recall is being told about Plank’s quantum theory: this is one of the topics discussed in the book after the
introductory pages about ‘classical physics’ and its limitations; it makes much more sense to me now than it ever did back in the day.

Niels Bohr, another physicist whose name I came across in my limited physics education is also featured here with an explanation of the first ever vision of the ‘Quantized atom’.

What this highly illustrated book does is take key concepts and ideas

and explains them in a way that is comprehensible – no easy task – to both upper primary and lower secondary age children, but this is entertainingly written and invitingly presented with lots of diagrams and illustrations including a quantum timeline.

With my basic knowledge of the topic I would say this is an excellent introduction; author Ferron and illustrator Altarriba have done a great job to make it accessible and exciting.