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!

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.