Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Wonderful Children's Book

I just finished reading Lucy and Stephen Hawking's, George's Secret Key to the Universe, a children's novel intended to fill the reader with an awe for science (specifically physics!). I believe it achieves this goal and provides a fun and imaginative story. I can even say I learned a thing or two about some astronomical objects.

The books is about a curious little boy named George who has his first experiences with science. I won't give away any of the plot so let us just say he goes on quite an adventure. George learns about stars, the solar system, comets, black holes, and some basic physics. The books includes dozens of amazing color photos, most of which will be familiar to any physicist. The effect of seeing the photos when the objects are mentioned in the course of the story is quite amazing though. The books really does an amazing job both explaining scientific ideas and the importance of science in relation to saving humanity to from a global disaster.

While I highly recommend this book, I would like to point out that I was quite intrigued by the choice of antagonist. In this book the Hawkings chose a power-hungry mad scientist. Ignoring that is quite an overused scenario, I think at a time when the public seems to dislike (or even fear) science, emphasizing the good that can come from science is very important. While I agree it is an important moral lesson to learn that scientists are human and subject to the same vices as everyone else, I think it might have detracted from the awe and respect for science the rest of the novel conveys. I also think the humanity of scientists was better conveyed by the actions of the "good" scientists in the novel. That being said, it is a minor point and did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel.

Overall, I recommend running out and grabbing a copy of this cute book. After you have it in your hands, go find a little kid (aged maybe 7-11) to read it to/with. I can only hope the Hawkings will write many more adventures so George can explore many other area of physics.